This Sunday, Kingston’s City Park hosts the 34th annual Women’s Art Festival. More than 170 artisans of all media will congregate to share their work and raise money for a good cause. Most are local, although some come from as far afield as Toronto and Quebec. “When you’re a new artist, it’s kind of scary to come out and sell your work,” says Sue Parkinson, one of the members of the festival’s organizing committee. “There are lots of shows that feature both men and women, but this is different. This is a safer space for women, where they can feel a little bit less of that competition.”
The festival started in the 1970s as a loose collection of women trying to get more exposure for their work, Parkinson explains. Originally, it was a relatively small event. Over the past several decades though, it has grown so large that it now sees attendance of more than 3,000. Parkinson herself has been attending the festival since 1984, and became formally involved with the board 4 years ago. “The only requirement for the festival is that the artists are women, and that all of the work is handmade,” she says. As such, the festival includes an incredible range of media, including jewelry, ceramics, pottery, acrylic and oil painting, photography, textiles, and more. Some fifty percent of the exhibitors are returnees, and there are lots of new faces as well. “In fact, this year our youngest artist is just nine years old,” Parkinson says. “She’s a caricaturist, and her name is Jane Marlo.”
The event isn’t just a fun-filled day to celebrate local women artists. It’s also a fundraiser for women’s and children’s causes in Kingston. Parkinson explains that the fees from exhibitor registration, as well as proceeds from the silent auction, will be donated locally. Over the past years, the festival has provided more than $80,000 to organizations such as Elizabeth Fry Society, Interval House, Breast Cancer Action Kingston, HIV and AIDS Regional Services, and others.
In addition to the artists’ booths, there will be live music, a craft tent, a silent auction, and other activities. “Everyone always says what a wonderful day it is,” Parkinson goes on. “We have people coming from all directions, and some stay and hang out the whole day. It’s overwhelmingly positive feedback.”
The festival takes place from 10 am to 5 pm in City Park, rain or shine. For a full list of registered artists and more information, visit Women’s Art Festival.