By Sally Johnson
Ten years ago a mid-summer arts festival made its debut in Urbana’s Monument Square. The downtown was transformed by white tents displaying original visual, performing, literary and culinary arts against a backdrop of authentic 19th century architecture.
Appropriately called Art Affair on the Square, the one-day event was conceived in 2005 by Sara Kerns and her husband Phil, owners of Guild Galleries in Urbana and members of Monument Square District (MSD), a non-profit organization dedicated to maintaining the usefulness and beauty of Urbana’s central business district.
Over the next 10 years, under the leadership of Sara Kerns, who headed the Promotions Committee of MSD and chaired the Art Affair Planning Board, the concept was developed into an all-inclusive arts experience presented under the auspices of Monument Square District.
On July 19, MSD will offer the 10th anniversary edition of Art Affair on the Square. Requests for booth space for Art Affair 2014 are already being received. Applications approved by March first qualify for a $15 discount on space fees.
Organization and production of the event is done by the Art Affair Planning Board, made up of representatives of the arts, business, education and government. The 10th anniversary Art Affair will not only offer new work in every arts discipline but will welcome some new faces to the board room. Kerns has announced her retirement as chair of the festival Planning Board and will turn her responsibilities over to three area business women for Art Affair 2014 and beyond.
Kerns will advise and consult during the transition year and she and Phil will continue to serve on the Art Affair Planning Board.
The new administrative team includes Pamela Bowshier, owner-operator of Cosmic Charlie Baking and Breads; LuAnn Shafer, owner and CEO of Everyday Organics; and Sarah Thornton, Production Manager and Graphics Designer, Main Graphics.
Kerns says the new appointees intend to maintain Art Affair as a showcase for high quality arts and as an opportunity for visitors to experience the natural and man-made attractions of Champaign County.
“It has been exciting to see this take shape and grow into the rewarding business/civic/arts collaboration we now enjoy,” Kerns said. “It is a broad-based, community effort and has regularly attracted excellent artists and substantial numbers of patrons from Ohio and adjacent states.”
Bowshier is a graduate of Springfield Shawnee High School with a degree in public relations and minor in journalism from Eastern Kentucky University. She has worked in the retail clothing industry, as an airline flight attendant and model. She and her husband, Jack, have a daughter, Amanda, a junior fashion major at Eastern Kentucky.
Bowshier notes that as home and family responsibilities eased, she got serious about her special interest – baking bread. She experimented with a variety of ingredients, taking this time-honored dietary staple into new realms of taste, nutrition and personality. Her hobby soon turned into a full-fledged business, Cosmic Charlie Baking and Breads, which has prospered under Bowshier’s initiative.
All her products are compatible with vegan diets. They are served and marketed regionally in restaurants, country markets and from her Springfield storefront outlet, Breads and Threads. She is president of the Mechanicsburg Farmers and Artisans Market, helps manage the online component of Champaign Locally Grown marketplace and is a vendor in other farmers’ markets.
Bowshier says she met Kerns through Monument Square District, which Bowshier is currently serving as secretary, and volunteered some small tasks for Art Affair. “That glimpse of the festival, my respect for Sara and my affection for all things creative, caused me to seriously consider the assignment,” Bowshier said.
She said every human endeavor can embody the arts – the traditional forms of music, literature, visual arts, theater and also the basics of food, shelter and clothing. “I approach Cosmic Charlie as an art form,” she said, “a hand- made, life-giving product combining tradition and imagination.
“My love of the Urbana downtown, the businesses and the community led me to accept the invitation to team up with LuAnn and Sarah to guide Art Affair into the next decade. I am proud and excited to do what I can to continue Sara and Phil’s vision.” Bowshier’s responsibilities will include Art Affair’s culinary arts component.
LuAnn Shafer is founder and owner-operator of Everyday Organics on Monument Square in Urbana.
She is a Champaign County native and a graduate of Triad High School. She continued her education at Wittenberg University, earning a bachelor’s degree in Organization Management. For the next 23 years, she served as Assistant Director of Human Resources at Wittenberg with responsibility for staff recruitment and management of employee benefits.
Shafer says that as part of managing benefits for Wittenberg, she arranged Wellness Programming for the staff. That involved, among other things, researching and distributing information about what constitutes healthy diets.
She said she was intrigued by the potential of organics in maintaining health and left her post at Wittenberg to devote full time to her newly-established retail store, Everyday Organics, at 23 Monument Square in Urbana.
Shafer has since expanded Everyday Organics’ opportunities for wellness programming, renovating the second floor of the building to accommodate Tina Jones and a Yoga Wellness studio and the Mid-West Martial Arts Association.
This spring, Shafer will have completed certification as a personal health coach and, beginning in April, will offer individual health coaching and corporate wellness programs at the Monument Square location.
Her management training and business experience have also prepared her for oversight of the Art Affair’s financial component, her special assignment for the festival. Art Affair is privately funded by donations of cash and in-kind materials and services from individuals, organizations, churches, business and industry.
Sarah Thornton is a native of the St. Paris area and a graduate of Graham High School. She has high praise for her high school art instructors Todd Buschur and Gail Wilson. She received post high school training at the Kettering School of Advertising Art, earning an Associate of Applied Business in Advertising Art degree.
As Production Manager and Graphics Designer for Main Graphics in Urbana, she created a logo for Art Affair and is designing graphics for 2014 promotional materials. She will also work with the Artist’s Market, the core component of the festival.
She says she has always attended and enjoyed Art Affair, but her interest deepened as she worked with Kerns on Art Affair printing. “Sara explained Monument Square District’s purpose and goals for the festival and I was thrilled and honored to be asked to take on some of the administrative work after she retires,” Thornton said.
Thornton said growing up in the small, close-knit community of St. Paris instilled values and provided opportunities that serve her well. She wants to see that way of life continue.
“It has become clear to me that we have an obligation to our communities, and events like Art Affair enrich not only the cultural life, but strengthen educational and economic opportunities. Art and Champaign County are close to my heart, and I look forward to giving my best efforts to Art Affair of the future.”
Thornton interned with The Eastpoint Group, Hafenbrack Marketing. She has served as guest lecturer at Ohio State University and has done free lance design work for Bottega Outdoor Luxury Furniture, The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, Project Woman in Springfield, the St. Paris Lions Club and Barney’s Auto in St. Paris.
In addition to her association with Monument Square District, she is a member and a Director of the Champaign County Arts Council, serves as a volunteer for Community Mercy Hospice’s Camp Phoenix and has been a swimming instructor and lifeguard for the Urbana YMCA. Thornton has been associated with Main Graphics since 2012.
Bowshier, Shafer and Thornton heartily affirm Kerns’ insight, imagination and tireless dedication as event founder and chair of the Art Affair Board for the first decade and pledge their best efforts to strengthen Champaign County’s historic partnership of commerce, agriculture and the arts.