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National, local artists take the riverfront stage at annual Columbus festival

Painter Cera Marie's painting on display during the Columbus Arts Festival. Credit: Khalid Moalim / Asst. Arts Editor

Painter Cera Marie’s painting on display during the Columbus Arts Festival.
Credit: Khalid Moalim / Asst. multimedia editor

Columbus resident Paula Jackson stood in one of the white booth tents lined on the Scioto River bridge, taking in the moment of her first ever showcase at the Columbus Arts Festival.

“Just seeing this whole thing progress is amazing. There are a lot of upcoming artists in the area. I’m really blown away,” Jackson, 22, said.

The 53rd annual Columbus Arts Festival was held Friday through Sunday in downtown Columbus.

The festival, put on by the Greater Columbus Arts Council with the help of more than 100 volunteers, brought together 282 visual artists, selected from a pool of more than 1,100 applicants, festival director Scott Huntley said Friday. He said at the time 450,000 visitors were expected to attend the three-day festival.

Artists represented 32 states and displayed work from 16 different categories that had been selected by a jury ahead of time, including sculpture, ceramics and painting, Huntley said.

The artists come from all different backgrounds as well – Jackson said she never thought she would make a career out of art. A teacher, though, convinced her to try.

“One time, one of my art teachers in high school said, ‘You should really pursue this.’ I tried it out, I went to (the Columbus College of Art and Design) for a few years to study illustration, and that really stuck with me,” Jackson, who graduated from CCAD in 2014, said.

Jackson said her illustrations, which vary in style from digital media to cartoons, are inspired by Japanese folktales her mother told her as a child.

“They all have a dark twist to them,” Jackson said.

Because she was chosen to take part in the festival’s Emerging Artist Program, which this year provided guidance to 11 central Ohio artists new to the festival scene and charged them lower rates for their booths, Jackson said her experience went more smoothly.

“Really they just hold your hand throughout the whole thing,” Jackson said.

Abstract painter George Whitten was one of 20 central Ohio artists at the festival, Greater Columbus Arts Council spokeswoman Jami Goldstein said.

Unlike Jackson, though, Whitten said he’s been displaying his work at festivals for about 20 years.

“I do about 10 shows a year,” Whitten said.

Whitten uses various elements in his paintings, including marble dust and clay on canvas.

The former University of Findlay art professor said the opportunity to teach helped prepare him for displaying his work at festivals by keeping him interested in art and helping him constantly learn more.

Whitten said interacting with clients is his favorite part of art festivals.

“I like that you sell directly to the client and get to meet the people buying your work, unlike a gallery,” Whitten said.

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