Home-grown sculptor Barrett ‘amazed’ by her first Art-a-Fest
By James Grob, firstname.lastname@example.org
Having grown up in Charles City, artist and sculptor Molly Barrett said she thought she knew what to expect when she agreed to be one of this year’s featured artists at the community’s annual Art-a-Fest celebration.
She wasn’t expecting it to turn out the way it did, however, at her very first Art-a-Fest.
“It’s amazing, and I’m flabbergasted,” Barrett said, after her work was judged to be the best in Saturday’s festival. “It’s really hard to put it into words.”
Not only was Barrett’s artwork deemed “best in fest,” she also received the Jean Semelhack Memorial Award, and the artwork she displayed — mainly small, decorative sculptures — had nearly sold out before noon.
Barrett was one of nearly 30 artists who put their talents on display at the 48th annual Art-a-Fest event, which was held in Central Park in Charles City on Saturday and also featured interactive arts activities for children, live performing artists, and food from a variety of local and regional vendors.
Art media included ceramics, sculpture, jewelry, photography, drawing, painting, woodwork, fiber and mixed media. Charles City native Anastasia Chloe Parsons, a multidisciplinary artist whose work focuses on themes of memory and home, was the official judge this year.
Barrett earned first prize and also earned the special award, while Noah Orthel placed second and Michelle Juhl was third. Artists earning honorable mentions were James Kerns, Don Semelhack, Madalyn Loring Vorrie, Meredith Hamm and Connie Rodgers.
A logo design by Elissa Ellis was voted by the public as the best Art-a-Fest logo. It will be the new 2022 Art-a-Fest logo, and will be featured on the Art-a-Fest website, social media, print media, T-shirts and elsewhere.
“I decided to work with a font that would hop off the screen whether it was in front of some of my abstract work, or working alone on a solid color,” Ellis said. “The shape embodies our own Charles City Arts Center logo.”
Barrett said she wanted to come to Art-a-Fest to show the people of her hometown her process of building the big pieces she builds, usually on commission. She said she also knew that she should have some smaller sculptures available just in case someone was looking to purchase one.
“Honestly, I kind of cleaned up my studio,” Barrett said. “I took all my scrap and all of the weird little pieces that I’ve collected over the years and it turned into quite a show. I was surprised.”
She said she hopes she inspired some younger artists from Charles City who are like she was many years ago. She choked up a little when she talked about her old teacher and mentor, Art Strong,
“Art Strong has been in my life for as long as I can remember, and he showed me how art can inspire someone,” Barrett said. “When you have all these people who feel great because of something I’ve created, it’s an honor, and I am humbled because of it.”
Barrett is the daughter of Dan and Sarah Barrett, who moved to Charles City in 1973. A 1985 CCHS grad, she attended the University of Iowa and studied art. She has lived and worked in Boston and Los Angeles, then moved to Minnesota with her husband. She’s been in the Twin Cities for over 20 years.
She grew up across the street from Strong, a longtime Charles City art teacher, who she has called “one of her biggest inspirations.”
Barrett built the “History in Shapes” sculpture that now stands near the Court Street end of the Main Street Bridge, next to the parking lot there and across the street from the Floyd County Courthouse.
She said that she was honored to learn this weekend that regular patrons of Tellurian Brewery across the street, who look at the sculpture each time they go to the establishment for a couple of beers, have nicknamed her work “Three Sheets.”
“Isn’t that great?” she laughed. “That’s one of the things I love about Charles City.”