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Cool art in the cool air
Telfair Art Fair gets bigger and better
Tobia Makover's photography & mixed media

For years, the Telfair Museums has held its annual Art Fair under a huge tent in Telfair Square.

This year, the event promises the same wide range of local and regional artists displaying their work for admiration, sale, and friendly competition, but there are a few new wrinkles.

First off, no tent: The whole Art Fair will be open-air, welcome news to those who didn't like the occasional claustrophobic effect of many people clustered under a low tent.

Secondly, the event expands from Telfair Square on down Barnard Street to Ellis Square.

Also, the selection of live music - you might remember the awesome Cusses show in the Jepson last year coinciding with the Art Fair - has greatly expanded also.

The Train Wrecks headline the "Telfair at Twilight" concert at 5 p.m. Saturday. Other performers throughout the day include the Massey Boys, Georgia Kyle, and Bottles and Cans.

In its 17th year of operation, the Telfair Art Fair has taken its place as one of the southeast's premiere such events, which collectively have become something of an important subculture in the art world.

"Art fairs are almost a different culture," says local fine art photographer Tobia Makover. "There are people that go from art fair to art fair and make a living at it. I consider myself different - I do the Telfair Art Fair because it's the Telfair Art Fair, not just because it's another art fair."

"For me it's a great opportunity to see other artist's work and support the Telfair," says local jewelry-maker Meredith Ann Sutton. "I sort of have a lot of fans who come back over and over again."

For Greenville, S.C.-based Kent Ambler, the Telfair Art Fair provides an opportunity to make "more of a personal connection" with people who admire and buy his unique woodblock prints.

"Sometimes I'll sell a piece in a gallery and never meet the person who bought the piece," Ambler says. "It's more fun to deal face to face with customers."

Makover echoes that sentiment, and says she enjoys sharing her process with her customers.

"I'm the kind of artist that tells you exactly how I do what I do," she says.

"The late Jack Leigh was one of my mentors, and he was the same way. He would take you into his darkroom and show you what kind of developer he used. He'd say, ‘there are no secrets.'"

The fairly unique nature of the Telfair Art Fair has brought a kind of devotion, especially among local artists, that does seem particularly enthusiastic.

"It's a rite of passage," says Makover. "The Telfair and the Jepson are integral to the community. There are very important artists in town that have done the fair in the past. We want to make this into the best art fair around."

Every artist that shows frequently at art fairs develops their own approach. Some view it as a way to sell older "inventory" of work, others create works designed for the event.

"I view it as a great way to create a body of work of many different types of pieces," says jewelry maker Sutton.
"I make about 20 prints from one wood block that I carve," says Ambler. "If it's popular and sells out, then they're gone.

Sometimes I might sell ten of something and still have the other ten for the next ten years!"

Ambler says as artist he tries to follow the same advice often given to writers: Write about what you know.

"I'm inspired by everyday life and my surroundings - my dog, my yard, birds in the trees. Things I see every day. I use those as a leaping point to the aesthetics of a piece."

While art is paramount at the Telfair Art Fair, it's no secret that one reason it's held in November is to prompt folks into giving the gift of art at Christmastime.

Sutton says many shoppers, even if they don't buy anything at the Fair itself, will call soon afterward to purchase something as a gift.

"It's a great shopping event for husbands, I have to say!"

17th Annual Telfair Art Fair

What: Shop and admire local/regional art while enjoying live music.

When: Sat. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (kids art fair 10 a.m.-2 p.m.); Music Saturday includes Bottles and Cans, Massey Boys, SAA Jazz Band, and Georgia Kyle. The Train Wrecks perform at ‘Telfair at Twilight' beginning at 5 p.m. Event continues Sun. noon-4 p.m.

Where: Telfair Square & surrounding area

Cost: Free and open to the public; art for purchase