The Eagan Art Festival chose an appropriate symbol to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
“Masks, around the world, are associated with parties and festivals,” said puppet and theater artist Seth Eberle of Minneapolis, who designed this year’s community art project, “Faces of Celebration.”
For the project, festivalgoers will decorate more than 200 paper pulp masks and attach them to latticework to create a large mask sculpture. At the event, participants can also help sculpt a 4-by-5-foot papier-mâché mask, which will eventually be covered with “celebration selfies.”
The projects are just two of the activities for families at the June 28-29 festival, which features a variety of bands and a juried art show of more than 100 artists.
Eberle, who works regularly with In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater in Minneapolis, has worked on a variety of community art projects.
At Bread and Puppet Theater in Vermont, they created a 50-foot Mother Earth mask. There was a “Make-a-Monster” workshop in Fargo, where community members created ogres with ceramic and papier-mâché heads and bodies of found objects and displayed them in abandoned mall storefronts.
“Most of the time, when you work with the community, other people have way better ideas than you do,” he said. “Most people can fill in the blanks in exciting ways.”
Eberle, who teaches mask and puppet-making workshops, said that kids tend to like making masks for a couple of reasons.
“You’re going to get a little messy,” he said. Also, kids who are shy sometimes will express themselves when decorating and playing with a mask. “It just lets kids’ imaginations open up to all kinds of possibilities.”
This is the sixth community art project connected with the art festival, and Eagan Art Festival Executive Director Wanda Borman said she liked Eberle’s idea because “it just seemed so interactive.”
At the event, kids will also be able to make “celebration hats” with colorful papers, wire and embellishments.
Every year the festival selects an artist to feature, and this year, it’s Kansheng Liu, of Hopkins.
“Her work is unusual as it is egg tempera on rice paper,” said Borman. “She is the only artist at our show that uses this combination. … Her work is bright and engaging, and I think she has a unique perspective blending East and West culture. Her work is just very beautiful.”
The show contains a wide variety of other fine and functional art.
“There’s always a lovely mix,” said Pat Thielman of Buffalo, Minn., a regular at the festival, who designs glass beads and uses them to create jewelry.
Steven Showalter of Eagan makes functional pottery: mugs, platters, vases and bowls, jars. He won “Best of Show” at last year’s event. He said that he enjoys making subtle changes from year to year and seeing how his regular customers react.
“Every year, I get to reinvent and change things,” he said.
Showalter, a high school art instructor who travels to a variety of festivals in the summer, said, “it’s great for me because it’s a local, hometown show.”
Last year, Borman said, the event drew more than 8,000 visitors from Eagan and the surrounding area.
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.