61st annual Art in the Park festival set to begin

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COLUMBIA - Artists from Missouri and across the country came to Columbia to showcase and sell their artwork.

The 61st annual Art in the Park festival begins Saturday at Stephens Lake Park where people can enjoy fine arts, food and entertainment. From coffee mugs to sculptures, there are plenty of works to choose from.

Art in the Park features more than 100 artists, who came from various backgrounds and journeys. Columbia Art League operations manager Louise Sarver said 40 percent of this year's featured artists are new to Columbia. 

First-timers Jim and Julie Vermeer traveled from Iowa to show their work. They have been fusing glass together for years. Julie Vermeer started out painting, then joined her husband. Color is their theme. Their brightly painted glasses bring in many clients. Now, they are ready to share their talents with Missouri.

"We were excited to try something new," said Julie Vermeer. 

For other artists, this festival experience isn't new, but have found ways to evolve along with it.

Artist Yukari Kashihara has been coming to Art in the Park for over eight years. Her Japanese roots inspired her to make specially crafted animal pots and mugs. She said that the festival gets better every year.

"They are very consistent, which is one reason I come back every year," said Kashihara. 

This year's event includes a new expansion to the Youth Collector's Tent, where children can collect their own art. There are multiple children's spots to enjoy activities like face-painting and tie-dye. 

Organizers were excited about exposing Columbia to art and bringing the community together.

"I think it has really become a part of the fabric of Columbia," said Sarver.

Art in the Park operations director Anastasia Pottinger also expressed her joy of keeping art exposure in Columbia. 

"It gives me hope that actually it is still an engaging job for these people to do," said Pottinger.

Art in the Park is set for Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public. Parking will be available at the Boone Hospital where shuttles will pick up and drop off at Stephens Lake Park. 

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