Shelley Racz is no stranger to the Arts Without Borders Festival Art Market.
The Lloydminster artist has been a part of the market for eight years and has seen it grow and change over time. What used to be a small indoor sale now attracts regional artists and shuts down the city’s main drag.
“It was quite sparse. We were in the Atrium Centre, just in the lobby, and there would be a few local artists,” Racz says about the festival’s early years. “Now, there are artists from Vegreville, south of Lloyd, Wainwright, all surrounding areas.”
Racz is originally from Winnipeg and grew up in Yellowknife before moving to Lloydminster. Like many artists, she started painting on her own time, participating in markets and juried shows, but it wasn’t until recently that she quit her job to pursue art full-time.
“I just got to a point where I wasn’t satisfied with doing (art) one or two days a week, if I could fit it in on the weekend,” she said. “I didn’t want to be the old person going, ‘Before I leave this Earth I want to do that.’ If you don’t make that big step to try to do it, it’s easy to find excuses. You’re not going to know if you can do it until you take that leap.”
Racz took that leap three years ago and now she has a job that doesn’t feel like a job. She says a big part of Arts Without Borders is raising awareness of the arts. When she was growing up her only exposure to art was through school activities. She hopes that Lloydmintserites take advantage of the festival and are inspired by the creativity that surrounds them.
“Honestly, there was never an art show in Lloydminster,” she said. “You always had to go to Edmonton or another town, so the fact that we’re having it right here in Lloydminster and are bringing people in from around is awesome. I know lots (artists) can’t get into the Art Market because it’s full. That’s a good problem.”
Racz plans to bring her paints and her easel and demonstrate her process for passersby. It used to feel strange having people watch her paint, now she’s inviting viewers to join in.
“(Children) will come along and I’ll say, ‘Here, you put your mark on my picture,’ because there are so many people, they may have held a paintbrush in their hand during school and that’s it. They forget what it’s like,” she said. “They just get a feel for it and a taste of it and maybe it sparks something in them to go try it.”
Racz says it’s the festive atmosphere and friendly faces that keep bringing her back year after year. She hopes the art displays and demonstrations encourage new people to take up art and join the community of artists.
“It’s exhilarating, I have to share it. I want everybody to paint ... because they might never know that this is something that they can do, or it could veer off into some other kind of art. But until they have an opportunity to try it, they’ll never know,” she said.
“If one person out of 500 that goes through (the market) goes to a class somewhere, or picks up a paintbrush or some form of art, or goes to the (Lloydminster Cultural and Science Centre) to do pottery, that’s success for me.”
The Art Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 13 in downtown Lloydminster.