Hyattsville Arts Fest showcases art in all its forms

October 10, 2012

Hyattsville Arts Festival vendors included Marissa Molinaro, who fashions hanging planters from old bottles. Photo courtesy Cynthia Mitchel.

BY LAUREN FLYNN KELLY — Recycled, repurposed, vintage, handmade and 100 percent eclectic were the themes of the day at the Fifth Annual Hyattsville Arts Festival, which took place on September 22 in the city’s Gateway Arts District on Jefferson Street at Baltimore Avenue.

Organizers estimate that more than 3,500 visitors flocked to the fest to peruse local artists’ wares made of everything from duct tape to beer bottles to old furniture. That’s up from 2,300 last year, according to the Hyattsville Community Development Corporation, which coordinated the event with help from numerous businesses and volunteers.

“Feedback from attendees and all involved has been extremely positive,” said CDC Executive Director Stuart Eisenberg. “I’m very proud of my staff, our volunteers, and the artists and performers. They went the extra mile to ensure the festival was a great experience for all.”

Emily Jane Warheit, associate director of the College Park Scholars Arts Program at University of Maryland, brought her students along to experience a connection between the arts and the community.

“They were all really impressed and had a great time,” she said. “We go to a different festival every year, so I’ve been to a lot.  I thought the selection of artists and vendors was as good or better than a lot of festivals in the area. It was great to see a whole range from those doing more craft-type work to fine arts, and we especially enjoyed talking with the artists who were actually working during the festival
so we could experience their process as well.”

Visitors browsed the work of more than 50 artists, including some from other cities in the metro area.

“One of my first shows ever was at the Hyattsville Spring Fest last year and it went really well. Everyone’s been super friendly and I’ve been selling a lot of hanging planters, decoupage and glasses,” reported Arlington-based artist Marissa D. Molinaro, who fashions glassware from new craft and vintage beer bottles as well as tufted memory boards from vintage fabrics.

Meanwhile, accessories designer Jen Athanas was huddled in the corner of her booth icing her foot after sustaining a bee sting. Her eight-year-old line, Jen-A-Fusion, features handbags, laptop cases and other small totes made of vintage and repurposed fabrics.

“I’ve been doing this since I was a kid,” she said. “My mom would say,  ‘You want new jeans? Here’s some fabric. Go make them yourself.’ And that always stayed with me.”

Fresh off finishing the brightly painted exterior of the nearby Shortcake Bakery, Erica Riggio and Angela Justice of Riggio Design set up a makeshift living room of vintage and repurposed furniture and fixtures, from a striking pair of turquoise, toile-cushioned dining chairs to a lilac-painted chandelier that could fit into any funky Hyattsville home.

“We’re both designers by trade, and we use a lot of recycled pieces to a) fit clients’ budgets, b) be green and c) because we think we can bring a lot of character to them. We like to do a lot of local projects,” explained Riggio, who also staged the Firehouse Lofts on Farragut Street.

Other works included photo prints of nature scenes, raw wood cutting boards, handcrafted note cards, succulent-filled planters, pottery in all shapes and sizes, leaf-adorned Adirondack chairs — even handmade hula hoops.

Children danced to the sounds of live music organized by Joe’s Movement Emporium & World Arts Focus and participated in crafts courtesy of ArtWorks Studio School, which provided reusable bags for the kids to adorn.

“I really liked decorating those bags,” said 6-year-old Nora Veigas. “It created quite a glitter storm,” added mom Kara Veigas.

There were also dogs up for adoption, thanks to pet-supply store The Big Bad Woof. “My 14-month-old loved the big St. Bernard we saw … and the frozen yogurt,” laughed local mom Anne Baum, who attended with youngest daughter Beatrix York.  “I only wish there had been more crafts for sale.”

Spreading hometown pride was lifelong resident Alicia McNeill, who manned the booth for the City of Hyattsville, one of the event’s key sponsors. “I was born and raised here,” said McNeill, who wore a red “I Am Hyattsville” T-shirt. “Our city is changing and I’m excited to be here.”

And what Hyattsville street fest would be complete without a cold one from Franklins Brewery? Brewer Mike Roy was out pouring Bombshell Blonde, Rubber Chicken Red and Sierra Madre Pale Ale throughout the day.