Riverside looks to resurrect art fair

? In mothballs since 1998, village officials and the Riverside Arts Center are exploring a new summer arts fair in June.

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The first weekend of June has been targeted for a pair of art-themed events which Riverside officials hope will serve as a showcase for the village and its business district. But just whether there's enough time to pull them off for this summer, or even this year, is still up in the air.

Members of the Riverside Economic Development Commission, the Riverside Arts Center and village hall have suggested resurrecting a version of the village's art fair, possibly linking it to a "Chalkfest" event, which was suggested last year by Riverside resident Donald Spatny.

The art fair, which was known as Riverfest, was last held in Guthrie Park in downtown Riverside in 1998. A substantial juried art fair, that also included entertainment and food, the art fair fizzled due to a combination of personnel and money issues.

Economic Development Commission member Olga Sylvester said that the EDC is exploring the possibility of obtaining grant money to help fund the fair.

"The Arts Center would certainly like to see something like that happen again," said Nancy Hejna, manager of the Riverside Arts Center. "We picture it as a village-driven thing with our support. It'd be a great thing for us, because we have a very creative population and it would bring people from the outside to the village."

The new event is also envisioned for Guthrie Park, and Hejna said that the Chalkfest idea could be coordinated with the art fair, although there were no set plans on how that would be done.

"It's a great idea that just hasn't jelled yet," Hejna said.

Chalkfest was proposed last fall by Spatny as an "Italian street-painting festival." It is based on an annual festival held on the West Coast in which local residents and visitors pay a fee to sponsor artists who draw in chalk. For the event's 10th anniversary, participating artists created a replica of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel masterpiece.

Although Riverside officials said they expect the local event will initially be on a smaller scale, participants said they are enthusiastic about the concept.

Commission members said the weekend of June 4-5 was chosen as a tentative date since weather will likely be predictably nice and because that weekend presented the fewest conflicts with holidays and other outdoor village events this summer.

"We're willing to help out," Hejna said, adding, "The Arts Center's role right now is to provide support to the artist community."

? Bob Uphues contributed to this report.

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