Downtown busy with artists, food vendors and families on Saturdays

For more than 33 years, Wendy Brenner taught math and Spanish at Fremont High School.

On Saturday, Brenner had a different kind of class in the Lofts at 505 Building, where she explained to buyers and browsers how she uses cast iron to create works of art — both unique and functional.

Brenner was among more than 60 local and regional artists who took part in the first-ever Fremont Gallery Walk. MainStreet of Fremont hosted the event where artists, writers and performers showcased their work at around 30 downtown businesses.

Downtown Fremont was a busy place Saturday as people strolled the streets, visited local businesses, viewed artwork and performances and munched on free goodies.

At the same time, the Fremont Downtown Development Group held its fifth annual fall festival.

People also read…

Food trucks lined a street where visitors could buy Hispanic, Greek and other food, as well as shaved ice, and eat it under the shade of a nearby tent.

The children had the chance to ride a pony. Guests of all ages watched a martial arts demonstration by the Rosenbach Warrior Training Branch. Later in the day, the public could join the community farm-to-table dinner and listen to music during “The Wildwoods” concert.

During the gallery walk, attendees were given cards listing featured businesses and artists.

Participants were able to meet the artists and buy works of art. Participants could win a free drink if they visited 10 sites and businesses marked their location on the map.

Becky Novacek Photography, 542 N. Main St., was among the participating companies.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity for artists to show their work and for people to come and see my studio,” Novacek said.

Novacek hosted Fremonters Jamie and Donna Meyer from 2JEM Reclaimed Wood. Jamie Meyer makes furniture and home decor. Novacek also hosted landscape painter Denise Levy from Omaha and Becky Kinloch from Cedar Bluffs, who exhibited his pottery.

“I know all of these artists and admired their work, so I invited them to show what they do,” Novacek said.

Novacek appreciates the gallery walk.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for people to see what Fremont has downtown and experience the vibrancy that’s coming back to our downtown,” she said. “I want people to be able to enjoy the historic charm of our downtown.

Visitors to Novacek’s studio could snack on grapes or bruschetta while viewing his photos and the artists’ works.

At the end of the street, Omaha artist Carol Rich exhibited her paintings in oil, alcohol ink and watercolor in the Lofts of building 505.

“I have too many paintings and not enough walls,” Rich said with a smile while recounting, in part, why she participated.

By late morning, Rich was already satisfied with her sales.

“I sold an original and several prints,” she says.

Guests walked in and out of exhibits by different artists in the building.

Former FHS students recognized Brenner, who kept busy telling people about her works.

Brenner cleans antique (100 years or more) and vintage (less ancient) castings, which she uses to make objects.

She added a cast iron door to a wooden table. The door opens to a cupboard inside the table. The table cover lifts up and can be removed.

Brenner showed a wooden cart with a handle made from a decorative piece on an antique belly stove.

She refurbished a grain drill (pre-1911), which became the handle of a small beer cart.

Brenner’s journey into art came naturally. His father was a carpenter.

“My mom did all the trades that came through,” said Brenner, now from Omaha.

Brenner has been creating art for a long time, but started working with cast iron about seven years ago.

“I started finding antiques and there was a man in an antique fair who cleaned cast iron, who told me how to do it – so I gave it a try and loved it,” Brenner said. .

She adds cast iron to a usable piece, making functional art.

Brenner also makes origami trees, some of which are made from recycled Christmas cards.

Brenner and Rich both attended the event after being invited by friend Katy Jones, assistant professor of art and design at Midland University.

Jones got the idea for a gallery walk at an event in Hays, Kansas, where she attended graduate school. She said Hays is similar in size to Fremont.

“They do four gallery walks a year. It’s an event that people are looking forward to,” Jones said.

Jones shared the idea with Melissa Powell, executive director of MainStreet; Tara Lea, Executive Director of the Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce; and Sam Heineman, realtor for Dodge County Realty.

“They’ve been the best advocates and supporters of this event and they share a passion for bringing it to life within the community,” Jones said.

Jones, who hopes another gallery walk will take place next spring, sees the benefit of connecting artists with businesses.

“We want a place where we can partner for our artists to thrive, but also for our local businesses to thrive, because we have a beautiful downtown,” Jones said. “We have so much to offer.”

Jones cites the benefit for artists.

“It’s a free place to show off their artwork,” Jones said. “Very often commercial galleries will take a percentage of what the artist makes.”

At the same time, the event raises awareness for businesses, which can benefit from increased pedestrian traffic downtown.

Jones said someone who usually didn’t go to a certain business now had a cultural reason to go to that store.

“It’s a phenomenal networking opportunity for businesses and artists,” Jones said.

The weekend’s events were a collaboration between Midland, Fremont Area Art Association, MainStreet of Fremont and Fremont Downtown Development Group, said Glen Ellis, president of FDDG.

Ellis said the downtown development group also hosted about 30 to 40 local and regional artists who sold their work on Saturday.

Additionally, the fall festival included a pancake feed, petting zoo, and performances by the Kartwheel Kids.

Ellis said the fall festival was created to highlight the need for green spaces downtown where community events can take place.

“FDDG continues to strive for a downtown park, especially now that there is so much downtown housing development,” Ellis said. “The benefits of green spaces are many, and we hope that through these events, city leaders will also see the benefits.”

About Margaret L. Portillo

Check Also

The New Jersey Art Fair You Didn’t Know About

Art Fair 14C returns to Jersey City for its fourth year this weekend, bringing together …