Most fair goers think of livestock shows and agriculture when they attend the Missouri State Fair, but a small crowd of art-lovers was on the fairgrounds a day early for the Missouri Top 50 art gallery opening Wednesday night.
The Missouri Top 50 is selected by a juror out of the many art entries by Missouri artists age 18 and older. Those chosen are displayed in the upper level of the Fine Arts Building, along with other pieces of art on the first floor. Juror Bruno David, of St. Louis, formerly of Paris, France, and New York City, had the task of selecting four winners and four honorable mentions out of the group he had already chosen for Top 50.
David said although he was limited in the number of final winners, he said he could’ve easily picked 15.
“I was very pleased by the entries,” he said. “They were very eclectic, which I like. It shows there’s a great deal of artists practicing work in Missouri. It was difficult to choose, especially the four finalists.
“I was presented with about 100 artists and was told to pick 50. I decided to pick 50 works instead of 50 artists because I wanted as many artists as possible to get the opportunity to show in this group exhibit.”
For artist Wanda Bellamy, this was her second year to enter the contest, and also her second year to win an award.
“I’m elated,” she said. “(Fine Arts Superintendent) Alan (Weaver) called me and he said, ‘You did it again.’ I said, ‘I did what?’ And he said, ‘You won again.’ I’m very pleased. … It’s nice to be recognized.”
Bellamy won for her acrylic painting, “Tending Garden,” which is based on a woman dressed in period costume she saw while at Missouri Town, which features living history.
The Raymore artist, who is originally from New York City, said she has “loved art all my life.”
“The Metropolitan Museum of Art was my home away from home (as a child),” she said with a smile. “When my friends and I would go ice skating we would always wind up at the museum because it was a good place to warm up. I spent hours looking at a painting, while my friend would want to move on to the next one.”
After the company she worked for closed, she decided to return to school in 1999 to obtain an art degree. She graduated from the University of Central Missouri with degrees in commercial and studio art in 2007.
“Painting is my love,” she said. “That’s what I truly love to do.”
David said he typically doesn’t agree to judge art shows, but agreed to help with the Top 50 because of his friend Doug Freed, an art professor at State Fair Community College and local artist who has pieces in David’s St. Louis gallery, who asked him to participate.
He added that he’s glad it gave him the chance to be part of the Missouri State Fair, and he plans on visiting the fairgrounds during Opening Day.
“I think it’s a very great opportunity for artists to be able to show work here at the State Fair,” he said. “With 300,000 people coming, I think it’s important to have art seen not just by friends, they’ll always support you, but I’m a big believer that the more people see art, even once a year, to me it’s a blessing. It’s terrific. I think it’s terrific to have this at the State Fair.”
He encouraged other Fair visitors to stop by the Fine Arts Building during their trip to view art created by fellow Missourians.
“Art is a voice. It is a language we use to express feelings, interests,” he said. “That’s what this show is about. All these pieces are so different, because they are made by different individuals. It takes a lot of courage for an artist to express themselves.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.