Artists Invited to Premier “Branson Festival Of Arts”

The Branson Festival of Arts 2008 to be held Oct. 9 through 11 is bound to make history, says Bob Cohn, president of the Branson Arts Council. And now’s the time for artists to register for the juried show.

There are several reasons Cohn predicts the three-day indoor festival will become a landmark annual event. First, Branson is a city known for fostering artists and artisans since it first beckoned visitors in the early 1950s.

The event will be held in the new Branson Convention Center. The building is spectacular and inviting, designed to pay homage to the natural beauty of the Ozarks with a curved glass front reflecting nearby Lake Taneycomo. The extensive use of wood creates a warm ambiance. And the convention center adjoins Branson Landing, the new $420 million lifestyle center with shopping, restaurants, the Fountains of Fire and a stunning lakefront boardwalk.

While first-time art festivals may suffer a shortage of spectators, Branson now attracts nearly eight million visitors a year, and autumn is one of the busiest times. They come for the live entertainment bonanza, the many choices for active relaxation on three lakes and wooded trails and the friendly Ozarks” hospitality.

The Branson Festival of Arts will soon be another annual attraction, Cohn says.

“Artists will come to be part of a high-quality, juried fine arts show in a brand new facility on beautiful Branson Landing,” Cohn said. “And the spectators are already there.”

The show is limited to 100 artists. Frank Neef has already been accepted. Neef specializes in crystalline glazed and pierced porcelain at his studio in Highlandville. He travels to shows in states including Texas, Illinois, Michigan and Colorado, “…so anytime I have the opportunity to market more locally, I’m willing to give it a try,” Neef said.

“It’s taking place at the Landing, which is a very happening place right now, and has quite a good buzz, and the fall is always a big time in that area,” Neef said.

Neef began his art career nearly 30 years ago at Branson’s flagship theme park, Silver Dollar City.

“Fall was always the biggest time of year there with the color reaching its peak. And people come from all over the country at that time,” Neef said.

Silver Dollar City’s National Harvest Festival draws thousands of visitors to its arts and crafts, and that festival will be in progress during the Branson Festival of Arts, ensuring art lovers will be in town.

“It’s just an opportunity close to home that wouldn’t cost much as far as hotel and travel expenses, so why not try it?” Neef said.

Neef said he did a major show in a large city, “and it was a bust. With the economy being in question right now, it’s probably easier to stay closer to home and not risk as much.”

Branson Festival of Arts:

Date: Oct. 9-11

Hours: Thursday, Meet-The-Artist Reception, 5 to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with teardown at Saturday close

Setup: Wednesday, Oct. 8, until noon Thursday

Festival admission: $5

Fee: $250; Jury Fee: $25

Prize money: $3,250

Register at Call 417-335-6636. Email: [email protected] Write: R.Cohn, 89 Westwood Dr., Branson MO 65616.

Branson Has Always Welcomed Artists

* One of the first attractions in Branson, Shepherd of the Hills Homestead and Outdoor Drama, held a contest in the early 1950s with the backing of the community and invited artists to paint a model for sculptors to use in creating statues of the best-selling book’s characters. The contest was judged by Missouri muralist Thomas Hart Benton. It was won by 15-year-old Wally Nickel, a high school student at School of the Ozarks, now College of the Ozarks, according to author Kathleen Van Buskirk in the book, “In The Heart of Ozark Mountain Country.” Springfield art teacher Roberta Stoneman Baker sculpted the seven-foot figure of The Shepherd, which was placed on display in 1954.

* In 1960, the popular theme park Silver Dollar City opened, designed to resemble an 1890’s Ozark village. Among the first craftsman there was woodcarver Peter Engler. As word of Engler’s work spread, other carvers were attracted to the Ozarks. It wasn’t long before their work gained national attention, and Branson became known for its fine woodcarvers. Other artisans also gathered at Silver Dollar City and spread into other area attractions including the Engler Block.

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