One day last fall, Mary Jo Lawless was out for a walk. She crossed paths with Brenda Ryan. The neighbors had waved to each other in the past, but did not really know one another. This time, instead of going their separate ways, they continued walking together and were soon talking about their shared appreciation of art as well as their neighborhood. It was from that conversation that the Shadow Falls Art Fair came to be. The first-ever event will be held from 9-3 p.m. Saturday, June 11, in the yard at 50 N. Mississippi River Blvd.

shaw fall art fair
Neighbors taking part in the Shadow Falls Art Fair on June 11 gathered where the event is taking place. They are, from left, Candace Campbell, Pete Lewis, Brenda Ryan, Connie Starns, Bebe Keith, Kirsten Madaus, Elizabeth Slattery, Scot Anderson, Mary Jo Lawless, Maggie Wirth-Johnson and Kathy Ebertz. Photo by Brad Stauffer

For Lawless, Ryan and others, the fair represents a confluence of the talent and community spirit found in the neighborhood bordered by Mississippi River Boulevard, Marshall and Cretin avenues—above and a bit north of where Shadow Falls flows into the Mississippi. Thanks to a cascade of interest from local residents, the art fair will feature a dozen artists showing and selling their paintings, collages, ceramics, paper mosaics, jewelry, fused glass, weavings, and handmade scarves and other clothing.

Neighborhood musicians will perform, including a high school violinist, a bagpiper and a flute and guitar duo. Local children will operate a lemonade stand as a for-profit venture. Proceeds from all other refreshment sales, including cookies, snacks, coffee and water, will go to Children’s Hospital.

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“From the beginning, the fair has been not only about art,” said Lawless, who has lived in the Shadow Falls area for more than 40 years. “It’s been about building something together, building community.

“I’m not an artist,” Lawless said, “but Brenda is. I thought that with COVID, she must have accumulated a lot of art around the house. On our walk, I suggested we have a popup sale before the holidays. She mulled it over, but thought it might be too soon. Then she talked about how there are a lot of artists in our neighborhood. And lo and behold, pretty soon we had a committee planning the fair.”

Lawless surmised that the enthusiasm for the art fair was related at least in part to the isolation people were experiencing from COVID. “Most people didn’t know each other in the beginning,” she said. “Maybe I wouldn’t have approached Brenda if there wasn’t such a need for connection. If not for COVID, the art fair might not have happened.”

That committee includes artists Bebe Keith and Pete Lewis. Keith offered to host the art fair in her yard, which is located where Otis Avenue, Exeter Place and Mississippi River Boulevard all meet. To find other artists and volunteers to help out, the committee canvassed every house and apartment building in the neighborhood.

The group formed Shadow Falls Arts, a volunteer organization that celebrates art and artists by encouraging interaction among local residents. “The umbrella concept of Shadow Falls Arts includes other forms of art such as music and poetry,” Lawless said. “We have a poet in our midst and several musicians.”

Lawless surmised that the enthusiasm for the art fair was related at least in part to the isolation people were experiencing from COVID. “Most people didn’t know each other in the beginning,” she said. “Maybe I wouldn’t have approached Brenda if there wasn’t such a need for connection. If not for COVID, the art fair might not have happened.”

Ryan, a ceramic artist, agreed. “The fair is far exceeding anything I thought it would be,” she said. “So many people who didn’t know one another or know one another well have come together. For me, the most important takeaway is the neighbors I’ve met. Even if we get rained out, I won’t regret one day of working on the fair.”

Connie Starns has been creating colorful kitchen towels on her loom for the fair. “At a recent meeting, I met half a dozen people I’d never known,” she said. “So from that standpoint, the endeavor is a success already”

Keith, who has exhibited her watercolors and other visual art throughout the state, said she is happy to have the art fair at her home. “This has been very little work and great fun,” she said. “It’ll have the energy of a popup event while offering a lovely blend of artwork in a festive setting.” Keith is hoping for a good turnout from local residents as well as people walking, biking or driving by. “I think the day will be magical,” she said.

“It’s really exciting on a number of levels,” said Lewis, a fused-glass artist. “Coming at this point in COVID, it’s a nice way to have a neighborhood get-together and draw in other people. Bebe’s house is the perfect location to attract people who see our signs. There will be well-established artists, artists like me who have been in a couple shows and artists who’ve never formally shown their work.”

Lewis, who has lived in the neighborhood for many years, was an architect for Opus before retiring. “We did a lot of the recent projects at Saint Thomas,” he said. “During one of our early planning meetings, someone wondered if the university would be willing to supply tables. I volunteered to ask, and they will be providing 16 tables for the artists and the lemonade stand.”

Another participating artist and longtime Shadow Falls resident, Candace Campbell appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with neighbors on the venture. It spurred her to make silk scarves, an art she learned at the Wet Paint art supply store on Grand Avenue. “It’s good to have a cohort to share your art with,” she said. “And the fair will build this community to an even greater extent.”

Connie Starns has been creating colorful kitchen towels on her loom for the fair. “At a recent meeting, I met half a dozen people I’d never known,” she said. “So from that standpoint, the endeavor is a success already. I’ve lived here for 45 years, and I was just meeting people who live within six blocks. I hope I meet many more neighbors at the fair.”

— Anne Murphy

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