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Published: Monday, 8/19/2013 - Updated: 11 months ago

9th annual art fair draws crowd to Levis Commons

Show featured exhibitors from across the nation

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Donna Wittwer of Bowling Green admires the jewelry created by Toledo School for the Arts students in the  TSA Artisan Guild area at the 9th annual Levis Commons Fine Art Fair Sunday in Perrysburg.  About 125 artists from as far away as California exhibited their work in the juried show. Donna Wittwer of Bowling Green admires the jewelry created by Toledo School for the Arts students in the TSA Artisan Guild area at the 9th annual Levis Commons Fine Art Fair Sunday in Perrysburg. About 125 artists from as far away as California exhibited their work in the juried show.
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Perrysburg’s Clyde Vermillion is an inspiration for retirees looking for a creative outlet to start a new career.

The 68-year-old former steamfitter and welder was an amateur photography buff for years, fascinated by the work he saw on display at juried events such as the Levis Commons Fine Art Fair.

So he took some workshops and his photography became good enough to become accepted into that and other juried shows.

PHOTO GALLERY: 9th annual Levis Commons Fine Art Fair

The former member of Local 50 Plumbers, Steamfitters, and Service Mechanics now has a second life — as an art photographer.

“I find photography relaxing. I don’t treat it as a job,” said Mr. Vermillion, whose work focuses on scenes from Europe and the American West. “This is just something I enjoy.”

This weekend was Mr. Vermillion’s first showing at the Levis Commons Fine Art Fair and only the second year he’s been accepted at art shows as a professional.

He credited workshops he took from Paul Christopher James, 61, an art photographer from Chelsea, Mich., who has been doing juried art fairs for 20 years.

Mr. James is a board member of the Guild of Artists and Artisans in Ann Arbor, the group behind the Levis Commons fair, now in its ninth year, which featured 125 artists from as far away as California. About 35 were from Ohio, some from the Toledo metro area.

Debra “Max” Clayton, the guild’s executive director, said Levis Common fairs have drawn 35,000 people in recent years.

Judging by Sunday’s crowds and jammed-packed parking lot, it appeared likely this year’s event would repeat that number, she said.

Ms. Clayton said artists are seeing a resurgence in juried fair activity after the nation’s sluggish economy resulted in a few lean years.

Amy Bader, a senior at Toledo School for the Arts, paints a tiger's face on Tyson Keaton, 7, from Wayne, in the  Toledo School for the Arts children's art area. Amy Bader, a senior at Toledo School for the Arts, paints a tiger's face on Tyson Keaton, 7, from Wayne, in the Toledo School for the Arts children's art area.
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“We’re seeing a real strong comeback,” Ms. Clayton said. “It only shows people really do appreciate art.”

The show, which benefited from some of this summer’s most pleasant weather, included a large children’s activity area operated by the Toledo School for the Arts.

Rick Moore, 59, and his wife, Janice Moore, 57, are glass artists who work out of their rural home halfway between Defiance and Bryan.

Mr. Moore said a few degrees in temperatures, as well as variances in humidity and precipitation, make all of the difference for the success of an art fair.

“If it’s too hot, too cold, or raining, people won’t come out,” he said, adding that the couple are on the road to Chicago next.

Admittedly one of the greatest risk-takers is photographer Chris Maher, 61, of Lambertville, who has been on the guild’s board of directors and has been showing juried art since 1978.

Fifteen of those years were as a wildlife photographer. Since 2002, Mr. Maher has specialized in the art form of nude female subjects, accentuating the symmetry of the human body with elements of nature such as curves in driftwood and trees or circular patterns of stone mountain ledges and water.

Many of his subjects also have posed without backdrops to offer what Mr. Maher describes as soul-baring examinations of their passion and confidence, images that he feels say more about their personalities than their bodies.

He said he was challenged to be more artistic because of the stigma that comes with photographing nude subjects.

“When I convinced myself I would not be creatively dead, I knew I had to hang some things that wouldn’t sell,” Mr. Maher said. “I don’t understand it, I don’t control it, but it needs to be expressed. ... You have to be aware you’re playing with fire, because there’s dynamite in it.”

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.



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