The biannual Art Walk in downtown Washington was a hit with some out-of-town visitors, who marveled at the creative, color-filled works on display. 

Cindy Crow, who was walking between shops hosting artists Saturday with her husband, Tom, was impressed by the variety of art available, from paintings to photography to glassware and pottery. They enjoy visiting Washington from Blue Springs, near Kansas City. 

“A lot of it is very affordable and available for everyone,” Cindy Crow said. “I wish there were other communities that did things like this to keep vitality in the community and get people coming to it.”

Friday and Saturday’s Art Walk featured 14 professional artists, plus students from Our Lady of Lourdes School, displaying their work in seven businesses. Some of the artists kept to the store’s traditional theme, like Amanda Copling, of Washington, and Bert VanderMark, of Wildwood, who both presented their pet portraits in Loyal Bella Co., a pet supply shop at 120 Elm St.

VanderMark, who taught graphic design and illustration at Washington University in St. Louis and Webster University, started painting pet portraits during COVID-19 shutdowns, he said. He now does work on commission using a variety of methods for people who send him photos of their pets. Most of his pieces are 11 inches by 14 inches, which cost $195, but 18-by-24-inch paintings can sell for up to $395.

VanderMark will even put two animals together in a photo if people send multiple photos.

“A lot of people want both their dogs together,” he said.

VanderMark finds Washington a great town for art. He visited the area two weeks ago for the Fall Festival of the Arts & Crafts. “They do so much for artists,” he said. “It’s very welcoming. It’s great exposure for artists.”

VanderMark was born in the Netherlands and trained for five years in a program at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague before coming to study in the U.S. more than 40 years ago.

But he sees himself as more of a “hands-on” person who wants art to be affordable. “It’s fun to give back to the community, to see how well people are connecting to the work,” he said. “For me, it’s just fun to have the art available to everyday, normal people.” 

Loyal Bella owner Jill Liebrum played host to artists in her store for the second year. Though the artists were sent to her by event organizer JoAnn McCoy, she knows it will be a good experience. “It’s fun to talk to people,” she said. “It’s nice to see art out there during normal, everyday life.”

McCoy, owner of Room For Art Gallery, 124 W. Main St., played host to seven artists for Art Walk, though some, like her father Jim Peters, are regularly based there. 

Art Walk was started by an art teacher at East Central College, then taken over by the Arts Council of Washington. McCoy, a volunteer with Art Walk since it started more than a decade ago, decided to keep it going. She said it gives artists a chance to show off their work even if they aren’t able to attend one of the larger events.

“It’s a benefit to help the artists that haven’t been to a lot of shows and festivals,” she said. 

Gene Huebner, of Union, displayed his paintings and handmade clocks at The Pot Shop, a pottery business at 111 Elm St. Huebner, who describes his work as being between contemporary and traditional, said Washington is a little more upscale than many communities, which helps it support the arts.

“We don’t really have any events like this in downtown Union,” said Huebner, who was taking part in his second Art Walk. “I know they’re trying to get things going.”