DECATUR – Ashton Jerger returned from a recent trip to Africa wanting to do something useful with all the pictures from what she called a golden opportunity.
Jerger, a senior at St. Teresa High School, took pictures of large cats, including cheetahs, leopards and lions while on a safari. Jerger has long enjoyed what she called a passion for animals and hopes to study zoology in college.
“It was a dream come true,” Jerger said. “One of my favorite parts is to share the wonderful time I had.”
Jerger came up with the idea to display her work at Arts in Central Park, an event she enjoyed attending as a child. She was among the 75 artists Saturday displaying and selling their work, which ranged from paintings, photography and fiber arts to pottery and wood working, to go along with demonstrations and musical acts.
Arts in Central Park continues from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, with kids art activities from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and the ArtShop for Kids open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Madden Arts Center, 125 N. Water St.
Music by Youth With a Positive Direction can be heard from 10:30 to 11 a.m., with the Sidewalk Stompers performing in the afternoon.
Admission into the park is free.
Jerger hadn't taken pictures with a camera other than the one on her cellphone prior to the trip. Her mom, Tracy, is proud to see the talent her daughter is able to display.
“She took all the pictures,” Tracy Jerger said. “I was stunned. It was amazing.”
With the help of her boyfriend, Cole Lamb, Ashton Jerger was selling prints of her photographs during the event in Central Park. Jerger plans to donate part of the proceeds through Photos for Paws to benefit Homeward Bound Pet Shelter and the Illinois Raptor Center, where she has volunteered.
She has enjoyed the entire experience, including being a first-time exhibitor at a well-respected art fair.
“I'm excited to see how it turns out,” Jerger said.
Getting young people involved in art and developing an appreciation for it is one of the goals of the show, said Barbara Dove, chief financial officer of Gallery 510, which sponsors the event along with the Decatur Area Arts Council.
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Dove enjoyed seeing the smiling faces of children throughout the park, whether it was drawing on the sidewalk or getting their face painted in the Striglos “Just for Kids” tent.
“I love seeing what the kids are doing with chalk,” Dove said. “We're teaching them to enjoy the art.”
Those attending the event can see high caliber art as it is a juried art show where exhibitors are judged on the quality of their work, Dove said.
Comfortable temperatures and a mostly sunny sky allowed the focus of the event to be on the artists, said Jerry Johnson, executive director of the Arts Council.
Planning for Arts in Central Park takes most of the year, said Stella Carnahan, the Decatur Area Arts Council administrative director who is in charge of organizing the event. She was glad it could go on quite smoothly.
“Hopefully, it will seem like it didn't take anything,” Carnahan said. “I enjoy seeing the smile on artists faces and hearing nice things from the people.”
Artist Alice Jaeger-Ashland of St. Louis returned to the event with her printmaking to display. In any given weekend, she usually has several shows from which to choose but has grown to think highly of the Decatur event.
“I like the Decatur show,” Jaeger-Ashland said. “It has a good customer base. The town supports the artists. It's good when you can be appreciated.”
Much of her work is done in a studio, so Jaeger-Ashland enjoys being able to see what others think of it and seeing what other artists have done. Art has been an important part of her life, starting when she was a closet artist.
“When my last kid left home, I started full time,” Jaeger-Ashland said. “That was in 1988. It's my love.”
Jerry Rhoads of St. Joseph feels a sense of accomplishment each time he finishes a wood-turning project. During the event to which Rhoads has repeatedly returned for the past several years, he was demonstrating the process he goes through to create a piece that he was selling.
Rhoads was making birdhouses, which he said became more of a necessity than just demonstration in order to keep up with demand.
“I'm glad when I can see somebody likes what I do,” Rhoads said. “We like the crowd here and we do pretty well. They're friendly here.”
Rhoads said smaller projects such as bottle stoppers can end up being popular items.
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