The Missouri State Fair draws prize sheep, dairy cattle and swine from across the state to compete for ribbons, but a small building away from the livestock barns and the midway houses paintings, sculptures, and photographs from some of Missouri’s top amateur and professional artists. Few towns are better represented than Columbia.
The Fine Arts Building spotlights artists from Columbia in four competitive divisions, including the Missouri 50 Exhibition, the top 50 pieces submitted to the Fair’s Fine Arts Department.
“I’m happy to see that there are so many artists from small towns,” said Sharon Dyer, a Boonville resident attending the fair with her family. “Some of the work we like best is from small towns.”
The show takes place on two floors that separate open from juried competition. The main floor holds the open competition, where anyone who submits work will have it displayed and judged.
The open competition has three divisions: professional, amateur and photography. In the professional division, there are seven $200 award winners and seven honorable mentions; the amateur division has eight $100 awards and eight honorable mentions; and the photo division has eight $60 awards and eight honorable mentions.
Columbia’s shutterbugs made a particularly strong showing in the open competition, with nine photographers represented, many of whom have more than one photo on display.
In the professional division, husband and wife Jerry and Joanne Berneche will each take home ribbons signifying $200 awards.
Upstairs from the open competition is the Missouri 50, a juried show judged by landscape artist Harold Gregor. Juried shows are evaluated using slides before the public views the art. Of the 50 works in the exhibition, four were given $1,000 awards and four others received honorable mentions. This year there were 420 entries.
Ten pieces in the Missouri 50 came from a Columbian, and Columbia artist James Calvin’s bronze sculpture “David” received an honorable mention.
Two of the four featured artists this year are from Columbia.
Lampo Leong, a Chinese-born painter who is an assistant professor at MU, is an artist-in-residence at this year’s fair. During the first five days of the fair, Leong worked in a studio on the second floor of the Fine Arts Building. This offered the public a rare chance to watch an internationally known painter work on a piece from beginning to end — something the fair does every year.
“I’ve done many painting and calligraphy demonstrations before; they are often one to two hours,” Leong said. “This time, being here for five days allows people to really see how an artist works and how a painting is done.”
This week, visitors can view the work of two new artists-in-residence, sculptor Elizabeth Ritter of La Monte and installation artist Matthew Dehamers of Kansas City.
The photographic display of Columbia’s Benton Naylor, “Famous and Almost Famous,” is prominently featured as you enter the Fine Arts Building. Seven of the photos, mainly of country music legends such as Johnny Cash and Charlie Daniels, were taken at Columbia-area venues, including the Blue Note and the Silver Bullet.
“He’s submitted photos before,” said Madge Gressley, superintendent of the Fine Arts Department. “So this year I told him that if he could put something together, we’d give him a showcase.”
The exhibit has been a hit with visitors.
“People are really enjoying it,” Gressley said. “Every year, one thing really seems to draw people’s attention, and this year it’s Benton Naylor’s photographs.”
The Fine Arts Building is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the fair. The fair, located in Sedalia, runs through Sunday.