Hundreds descended on Wait Park Saturday for the whimsical celebration of all things artistic that was the inaugural Through the Looking Glass Art Festival, hosted by the newly resurrected Canby Arts Association.
The event was a showcase of a wide variety of visual arts, including painting, photography, sculpture and ceramics, glassware, weaving and more, as well as music, food, literary arts, theater and even a little street magic courtesy of local illusionist Scott Anderson.
Local character actress Grace Peterson charmed many an attendee as Alice from Alice in Wonderland, the favorite book of festival co-founder Shelley Arndt and one of the larger themes of the event.
Chalk artist Emra Nation paid off her teases earlier in the week, a series of bunny footprints pointing the way to Wait Park, with two sidewalk masterpieces, one in honor of the Canby festival and another that was a tribute to Alice.
Food vendors were also encouraged to tailor their menu items to the theme, like heart-shaped personal pizzas from Odd Moe’s or the “Mad Hatter Burger” from Wayward Sandwiches. (Don’t get us started on the hot dog on a stick the Wayward team dubbed the “Weiner Wand of Whimsy.”)
Kids’ activities abounded, including a bouncy house, take-and-make art projects from Canby Kiwanis, face painting and balloon animals.
Tyler Clawson and Hannah Ray Lambert, co-hosts of the literary podcast Between Lewis & Lovecraft also brought a unique touch to the festival, hosting several live interviews on scene at Wait Park throughout the day.
Attendees spoke positively of the new addition to the Canby events calendar.
“I’m so in awe of Megan and Paul Waterman, Shelley and Eric Arndt and Kayla DeShazer for their hard work and creative vision,” said Luana Hill, a Canby resident and longtime Kiwanian. “They are five of the best things that have happened to Canby in the last few years. So lovely to have a beautiful day in the park, totally dedicated to the creative spirit.”
Shelley Arndt, who serves as president of the Arts Association and also owns Art-O-Maddic Gallery and Gifts with her husband, Eric, deemed the festival a success, believing they had surpassed their attendance expectations with well over 500 art lovers and curious passers-by filtering in throughout the day.
“I think it went better than any of us thought it would,” she said. “There were a couple of hiccups but it was nothing that we couldn’t handle. The public seemed to really be enjoying themselves and that was a win in my book.”
“We were pleasantly surprised by the turnout,” agreed Paul Waterman, association secretary and co-owner of The Book Nook. “It exceeded our expectations. After so many years with the Canby Arts Association on hiatus, there wasn’t much to base attendance historically.”
First founded in 1982, the Canby Arts Association is a volunteer-managed nonprofit organization with a rich history in Canby.
It grew out of the earlier efforts of a group of local artists known as the Canby Art Squad and did much to shape the community fabric so many residents now enjoy, including founding the original General Canby Days and leading the construction of the iconic gazebo in Wait Park.
The group spearheaded the Canby centennial murals on the historic police building by prolific muralist Larry Kangas, and also helped launch the Slice of Summer concert series and Canby Wine and Arts Festival, as well as the Richard Brown Fine Arts Center at Canby High School.
But it had lain dormant for several years before the Arndts, Watermans and DeShazer came on board.
“It was such a great experience for us to bring a free family-friendly event to our beautiful downtown,” association Marketing Director Kayla DeShazer said. “From city councilors to local business owners to families, they all said they had a wonderful time and are looking forward to attending again next year.
“We also received many comments on our social media platforms from Canby community members who were disappointed they couldn’t make it due to being out of town. Many vendors told me this was the best art festival they have attended and encouraged us to make it a two-day event next year!”
The outpouring of positive feedback has inspired the team to look forward to next year’s festival — as well as dream up another new event, DeShazer teased. More on that to come.
Association Treasurer Eric Arndt was thankful to his fellow board members, generous financial support from the Regional Arts Cultural Coalition, Clackamas County Cultural Coalition and local sponsors, as well as the many volunteers, artists and vendors who all contributed to bringing the first-year festival to life.
“It truly took a village to make this successful — including our friends and family helping us stay sane,” he said. “And of course, everyone that showed up to support us or spread the word. Every element was equally necessary to make this successful.”
The Canby Arts Association is already planning fun additions for next year, with applications for Through the Looking Glass Arts Festival 2023 expected to open in October.
“We are excited to showcase even more local artists, authors, musicians and culinary artists next year,” said Megan Waterman, association vice president and co-owner of The Book Nook.
For more information, connect with the Canby Arts Association on Facebook.
Help us build a sustainable news organization to serve Canby for generations to come! Let us know if you can support our efforts to expand our operations and keep all of our content paywall-free. #SwimWithTheCurrent!