LAKE WALES — Years ago, Dan Hay was working for American Airlines. During a stop in San Francisco, he was exploring the city when he stopped into an art gallery … and fell in love with the stainless steel artwork being exhibited in there.
It turned out to be a life-altering moment for Hay, who now lives in Frostproof.
“I decided if I could do something without having to report to someone else, I’d so it,” he said. “That was in the early 1970s. So, with the confidence of a 25-year-old, I quit my job and went into this.”
“This” was a vendor booth that Hay’s had rented at the 41st Annual Lake Wales Art Show, held on the picturesque shores of Lake Wailes Park. He was among 105 artists and craftsmen at the event, which had attracted a huge crowd by early afternoon.
“This is a nice sized show,” Hay said, adding that he’s brought his work here before, and always done well.
“I’ve been here for about four years now, and it’s always a good show,” he said. “It has a loyal following in the area, and they like my work.”
His work consists of stainless steel decorations, the kind he’s been making for the past forty years, ever since he fell in love with similar work he spotted in that California gallery.
“I saw a gallery in San Francisco and went in,” he said. “My mother wouldn’t let me take art classes. She felt you take psychology and business management, things like that, so I wasn’t exposed to art at the time.”
On the other hand, Hay had grown up making model airplanes, so he had something of a head start.
“From the time I was eight or nine years old, I built model airplanes,” he said. “It’s a construction thing.”
So are his current works.
“It’s stainless steel wire constructions of hot air balloons and space ships,” he said.
Everyone at the event was offering something that mixed the traditional — paintings, jewelry — with a unique twist, like artist Kenneth F. Aunchman, who brought along paintings of sea life. He was also handing out something else to the patrons: 3D glasses.
“I do 3D art,” he said, as several patrons put on the 3D glasses, looked at his paintings, and marveled at how the artwork seemed to change once they did.
“You can almost look behind the fish,” Aunchman said, adding that it took him a few years to really master this technique.
“In 35 years of mistakes, I might try to do something that’s never been done before, and it’s truly trial and error,” he said.
Aunchman, who came to Lake Wales from Atlanta, Georgia, said this was his introduction to the Polk County town’s annual show.
“I heard about it through word of mouth,” he said. “Artists talk about art shows to one another, and I heard about this one. It’s been excellent here today. In this one particular area of Florida, they’re showing a lot of interest in my work. I’ve been doing shows for 40 years now, and I have to say, there’s a good interest in the arts here.”
Henry Duquette marveled at the picture-perfect weather that the crowds and artists got, and how that seemed to bring out a large number of people.
“It’s been non-stop,” he said. “Everybody was buying, We definitely want to come back to this show.”
Duquette hails from Somerset, Massachusetts, where he works full time producing specialized hand-crafted jewelry.
“This is hand-blown glass I’m selling, and marbles,” he said. “This is a labor of love.”
Although Duquette brings his work to a lot of art shows around the country, he had never been to Lake Wales before.
“This is my full time job, and I do about 25 shows a year,” he said. “This is the first time we did this one, and we wanted to do something new, so we came here and this has been a phenomenal show, Buying has been great.”
So good, in fact, that “I wish we had two Visa machines,” he said.
Shelly Windham, one of the organizers of the art show, said this year’s weekend event got off to a great start on Friday, and turnout on Saturday was solid.
“It’s going great,” she said. “The artists are very pleased with the turnout, and they’re very pleased with the weather.
Even better for the crowds, she said, is that the kinds of artists and craftsmen the show attracted this year has been even more eclectic than usual.
“I think it may be even more diverse in terms of the quality of the artists this year than it was last year,” she said.
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