Ways Garden Art & Craft Show celebrates 58th year

The Bald Eagle Art League will host its annual Ways Garden Art & Craft Show on Sunday. The show, which will be open to the public from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be held at Ways Garden, located on the corner of Maynard and West Fourth streets.

Since 1946, artists and artisans have assembled each year from all over the country to exhibit their work in this non-juried format. Since its inception, the Ways Garden show has been one of inclusion and community. The Bald Eagle Art League’s official website encourages participants to “present (their) work, network with other artists, share (their) passion for art, and hopefully make a few sales, all on a Sunday afternoon in the park.”

Another longtime staple of the Ways Garden Art & Craft Show has been its pairing with the Trinity Episcopal Church’s Strawberry Festival held just across Fourth Street on the same day. It’s easy to imagine two events like this spawning competitive glares across Fourth Street, like 8-year-olds crossing out and rewriting lowered prices on the fronts of lemonade stands, but that simply isn’t the case. The two festivals’ longevity has no doubt been aided by their symbiotic relationship, organizers from each event encouraging visitors and participants alike to take some time to head across the street and see what’s there.

Also unique to the Ways Garden Art Show is its unabashedly simple and straightforward approach to a very old problem: because of regulations as old as Way’s Garden, sales cannot be made within the park’s fence. Knowing that participants may wish to not only display their work, but sell it to interested buyers, the show’s organizers encourage the artists, artisans and their supporters to simply “step outside the fence when (they) exchange money.”

One of the show’s earliest supporters and advocates for making an event that was “open to all artists” was Eve Archer. Archer was a key organizer and leader in the art show for over 50 years, starting when the Way’s Garden Art Show was still put together by Williamsport’s YWCA.

“I was part of the YWCA,” Archer explained in a phone interview, “and became involved through that.” The young Way’s Garden show would eventually be turned over to the Bald Eagle Art League who organize it today, and it is still held in Way’s Garden (unless of course it rains, in which case it is moved into the YWCA).

For her many years of dedication, guidance and leadership, Archer has been celebrated each year for seven years – 2014’s show will be the eighth – by the Annual Eve Archer Award. The prize is awarded for “best in show” and is determined entirely by public ballot. (Ballots will be made readily available and voters can drop them at any of the park’s exits). The award that bears her name is fitting homage to Archer: it can be awarded to any artist, professional or amateur, and is voted entirely by the public, truly making it “open to all artists” as she originally intended. Now in her late 80s, Archer said she feels “honored and truly appreciates the consideration” involved in naming the award after her. She still attends the annual show and said that more than anything, she loves “seeing all of the different work that everyone is making.”

“Like with anything else we’ve had good years and bad, ups and downs,” explained artist, board member and longtime contributor to the Art Show Charlie Paris. Paris, whose woodwork has been part of the area and the Way’s Garden show since the beginning, said he believes that “in 58 years we’ve only been rained out a handful of times,” and that he’s “glad to see it thriving now.” Like Archer, Paris has been involved with the Art Show since 1946. This year he will exhibit photography along with his woodwork.

This year’s show will be co-hosted by Gretchen Mangiardi, who will have her own artwork on display. For more information, visit www.thebaldeagleartleague.weebly.com or e-mail tdtrate1719@gmail.com.