Pieces from Buffalo’s Art & Custom Work by Native American artist Shana Lukinich and family.Photo: Krisa Bruemmer, KP News

The annual tradition grew out of a desire of local artists to get to know each other into one of the most popular public art shows on the KP. 

Downtown Key Center overflowed with locals, visitors, artisans and artists for the fifth annual Key Peninsula Art Walk August 7, organized by the Two Waters Arts Alliance in partnership with the Blend artists group. Music filled the air as folks mingled, chatted and appreciated our vibrant art community in the warm evening sunshine.

“It’s awesome,” said part-time Vaughn resident Joe Mercado. “What a great turnout.”

“It’s nice to see your neighbors,” added Mercado’s wife Nancy. “Ones we haven’t seen in years, who we saw when our kids were little. It’s so much fun to come out here and run into people.”

Forty artists and nonprofit organizations participated in the 2019 Art Walk, up from 33 last year.

“The number of people was amazing. We had more artists than we anticipated,” said TWAA President Delia McGinnis. “I’m very, very pleased.”

“We had about 20 participants the first year,” said Kathy Bauer, who founded TWAA with Margo Macdonald. Bauer’s daughter, Taylor Reed, inspired the creation of the KP Art Walk during a TWAA meeting in 2015.

“The people were engaged with the art and having a good time and that’s what we wanted. I was really pleased with that,” Macdonald said.

In the Key Center library meeting room, 14-year-old Morgan Dunham sat perfectly still while people mingled and chatted, marveling at how three artists, Chris Bronstad, Adria Hanson, and Sandy Dunham brought the model’s image to life using charcoal.

“He’s very, very, very, very talented,” said Addie Hoverson about Bronstad, an award-winning portrait artist who retired from teaching at Key Peninsula Middle School last year.

Hoverson’s nieces, Norah and Charlotte Lystad, said their favorite part of the Art Walk was the bubbles at the Sound Credit Union booth. The girls’ mom, Hailey Lystad, settled on the wine and complimentary clams from Taylor Shellfish.

Portraits of model Morgan Dunham by Adria Hanson (left) and Chris Bronstad (right). Photo: Krisa Bruemmer, KP News

In addition to the talent on display, the Art Walk throbbed with history and stories beneath the surface of a thriving artistic community that expands outward globally.

“I had a dojo in Japan contact me and ask me to make two cedar paddles,” said Shana Lukinich, a Native American artist. “Those leave tomorrow to be gifts to the grand masters at this dojo that’s been there for 200 years.”

Gretchen Shepherd will soon head to Botswana to photograph elephants with her mentor, the photographer and conservationist Art Wolfe.

“He’s doing a book on the plight of elephants,” Shepherd said. “It should be pretty spectacular because we’re going to photograph them in a way that has not been done.”

In July 2015, Shepherd took her first trip with Wolfe to Katmai National Park in Alaska to photograph bears. At the Art Walk, Shepherd regaled her visitors with tales of close encounters with mother bears and their cubs.

A former elementary school teacher and K-5 librarian, Shepherd said of her photography, “I gave it all up for a long time when I was raising my kids, then picked it back up again a few years ago when Art Wolfe looked at my stuff. I’m really excited to be part of this art community.”

The Animal Art of Maranda Cromwell was a space filled with whimsy and a touch of darkness. Her featured pieces included a brightly colored, fully clothed coyote painted on a whorl of a juniper tree, a wolf smoking a pipe against a backdrop of snow-covered alps, and a serval cat “channeling the blood moon to go on a hunt.”

“I made art out of rocks and stuff as a little kid,” said Cromwell, who has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Washington. “It takes a long time to get (an art career) going, especially if you’re not catering to an audience,” she said. “I’m certainly not catering to anyone, except myself.”

The Gray family of Vaughn, Sara and her two sons, Evan and Charlie, had arguably the most heartwarming setup at the Art Walk.

“I’ve done the Art Walk as a jewelry vendor for four years and they’ve always tagged along with me,” Gray said. “It just made sense that they should make their own items and bring them with, because this is community.”

Charlie, 8, is a painter who uses a pouring method. “You have to tip it around,” he said, picking up one of his paintings to demonstrate how he tilts a canvas covered in wet acrylic paint. “You can swirl a Q-tip around and it changes the design.”

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity, a perfect place in our own community to show people what they can make,” Gray said.

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