Spring Into the Arts

A look at how the Primavera art festival comes together.

In Italian, primavera means “in the style of spring,”  and this April ushers in a fresh season of Plymouth’s Primavera art festival, welcoming artists from across the community to participate in an annual celebration of the arts.  

The four-day event begins with a “Friends of the Arts Preview Night,” on Thursday and over the weekend features a juried art exhibit, scavenger hunts for kids and families, musical and theatrical entertainment and ends with a literary night on Sunday, wrapping up the festivities. The much-enjoyed and anticipated event is now celebrating its 21st year.  

“It’s a warm, inviting, friendly atmosphere,” recreation supervisor Alyssa Fram says. “We’re really fortunate over the last 20 years we’ve been able to host it at the Plymouth Creek Center which is our main community center. Having it there facility-wise brings in a lot of community members.”

Fram is the liaison between the city and the Plymouth Arts Council, an organization that promotes and fosters art of all kinds in the community. “I work with arts council members to make sure they have all the resources for the event,” Fram says. “We help to provide displays and pillars for a lot of the pieces during the event and set up prior to it starting on Friday. I also work with our volunteer coordinators to facilitate volunteers who help assist throughout the event.”  

“The main focus for this event is the juried art exhibits,” Fram says. “There’s a first prize that’s set up for the event, the Best of Show Award, and there’s also a Primavera award that’s judged by the Arts Council, and they all are monetary awards. So that is a great thing for the artists as well,” Fram says.

In late December or early January each year, artists are able to submit applications for pieces to enter in Primavera, with a March deadline to submit applications. Each artist may submit up to three pieces for the juried event. PAC members then review the artists and their artwork, and individuals are contacted to participate in the Primavera festival if their piece is selected.

“Each year on average, there are over 100 to 150 adult artist entries that come in,” Fram says. “We also have a student category which is really neat; the Arts Council has been really good about advocating to the high school students who participate and their teachers about getting [the students] involved.”

The fine arts show displays creative work by artists in a variety of mediums including watercolors, oil paintings, photography, pottery and more.

Primavera has given artist Skip Sturtz a chance to share his art with the community and further establish himself in his art career. “I entered my first Primavera event in 2015 with three accepted works,” Sturtz says. “In 2016 one of my submissions, “Peace on Earth,” won a Primavera Award of Excellence.”

A first-time look at the artist’s ink drawings is breathtaking. In an illustration of Gustavus Adolphus College, each brick stacked neatly on top of one another completes the campus building, each tree in the scene is assembled one intricate leaf at a time. One of Sturtz’s drawings takes about 25 hours to complete.

“The artwork I submited for juried consideration at the Primavera event was a mix of pen and ink drawings of a home, an iconic university building and one original landscape,” he says.

“I’m always very humbled when I see all the incredible artists out there mastering a wide variety of mediums,” he says. “It’s a community I’ve never experienced before where all have been equally supportive, no matter how experienced or established they’ve become. They always save room for someone new.”

Artist Tad Thorstenson will also return to Primavera this year. In one of his pieces entitled, “Tatemae-Honne,” a Japanese phrase meaning “Things as they are, and things as they appear to be,” the artist used coffee, tea, graphite pencil, soot and smoke on burned and branded paper to complete his artwork. Alternating gray, black and brown ovals in the piece creates a layered look, almost a three-dimensional effect, as if the viewer is peering through a microscope.

“I magnify microcosms, cellular structures and organisms—things lying just beyond the naked eye—though not realistically,” Thorstenson says. “I work to capture the complexities and infinite changes of small, simple and overlooked things that surround us every moment of our lives.”

Because of the details and long hours that artists put into their artwork for the show, Thorstenson advises Primavera-goers to spend ample time with each piece at the exhibit, as even lighting can have an effect on how a piece of art is viewed.
“I really like the thought of people stopping and looking,” he says, “because if they just go by it, they won’t catch it, they’ll miss everything.

“Most of my pieces look very simple, but if you get closer to them you’ll see that there’s numerous layers,” Thorstenson says. “I work on some of these for hundreds of hours grinding, tearing, burning, all sorts of things to make these little nuances that you [normally] wouldn’t see.”
Jacque Frazzini is vice president of PAC and co-chair for Primavera; she also helps with preparation for the event. She admits one of the biggest tasks of Primavera is setting up the space for the artists’ work. “We’ll have volunteers from the city help us hang the art which is a pretty big challenge. We can have as many as 150—close to 200 pieces—of art to hang on display boards and have it all ready for when the judge comes to jury it.”

Frazzini taught for many years at Wayzata Junior High and High School and wanted to get involved in the community after retiring. She has enjoyed watching attendance for Primavera grow over the years. “What I like most about it is that it engages so many people from the community,” Frazzini says. “Not only the artists, but so many people come to see the show and to enjoy the activities we have.”

One aspect the artists and attendees value is the caliber of the event, as much care and consideration is taken to put it together. The PAC also looks for feedback from the artists to enhance the event and overall experience each year. This year will feature a pop-up shop during the event for artists to sell their work.

“The majority of the artists come from Plymouth, although the show is not limited to Plymouth artists at all,” Frazzini says. “We’ve had several artists come from out-of-state and that’s kind of exciting and quite a commitment because the show only runs for that weekend,” she adds. “We’ve had some nice compliments about the quality of our show.”