Artist James Shirley, 93, reclines in his homemade metal rocking chair, constructed from rusted horseshoes, brass wheels, horse harnesses and an old tractor seat.
The Rexburg resident has a hard time hearing and seeing, so he leans forward as he talks, his wide-brimmed hat shading a face etched with the lines of age, sun and a smile. He sits near his booth, surrounded by iron flowers and welded piglets, while a mother goose and her goslings bounce gently in the breeze on legs made from metal springs.
Shirley said he works with his family members to find the old metal he works with, which is getting progressively more difficult to locate. He said for the most part, his son does the welding while he comes up with the ideas.
“I can’t sleep at night,” Shirley said. “I’m always dreaming this stuff up.”
Shirley was one of the 60 artists chosen for the Eagle Rock Art Guild’s 64th annual Sidewalk Art Festival this past weekend. Booths lined the Snake River in Idaho Falls, with vendors selling creations such as watercolor paintings, jewelry constructed from silverware, ceramics, framed photography, carved fishing nets, clay birds, glass-blown pendants, and handcrafted wind chimes.
While some of the artists are local, many came from states scattered across the country. Maine resident Susan Hutton came to exhibit and sell jewelry as part of series of art shows she planned in order to explore this side of the country.
As a single mother, Hutton said she has had pressure to choose a more lucrative career but can’t escape her drive to create, saying it’s not just an outlet but “a way of being.” Hutton said she even brought her knitting along to the show just in case she got bored.
“I may not get rich but when I wake up in the morning, I want to do what I’m doing,” Hutton said.
Utah resident Emily Edmunds is a lifelong artist. She works with pen and ink, with her pop-art creations featuring hippos, bees, jellyfish and characters from the shows she watches.
Edmunds said she likes to “create work for younger people” and said she felt that if artists don’t work to interest children, then art shows will eventually become extinct.
“My art tends to be a little more youthful in hopes that kids find it inspiring and want to do the same thing,” Edmunds said.
Overall, event coordinator and Eagle Rock Art Guild President Deanna French called the art festival a success. She attributed it to the “outstanding art” and good weather.
“I thought, and was told by several people, that it was one of the best shows we’ve had for several years,” French said.
French expressed her thanks to the artists, food vendors, sponsors, the parks and recreation department, and art guild members.