It's appropriate that Central Park is called “the heart of Griffith,” considering it's home to A Park Full of Art, a fine arts event that has captured the hearts of townspeople visitors alike, drawing upwards of 6,000 people.
“It was the townspeople who wanted to bring culture and the arts to the community by having a fine arts show,” says Kathie Price, a longtime member of the committee that oversees the exhibition.
In 1974, Griffith Park Board headed by Mary Campbell proposed that a fine art fair be held in Central Park. Price’s father, Chuck Ricks, an art teacher at Griffith High School for 33 years, was a consultant for the committee formed to spearhead the project. He became chairman the following year and continued in that role until his death last year.
Though Price lives in Florida now, she attends the monthly committee meeting by phone and comes to Griffith two weeks before the show every year to help organize the event.
“I was raised around so much art and I love the show,” says Price. Her daughter, Amber Price, is a third-generation member of the committee that’s grown over the years.
Clearly the nonprofit A Park Full of Art committee is engaged in a labor of love. For nearly 30 years the committee has provided a scholarship to Griffith High School seniors interested in pursuing a fine arts education. The scholarship funding comes from artists’ entry fees and concessions during the show's two-day run. About 120 artists from across the country as well as locally and from Mexico participate.
A Park Full of Art is a juried show, following specific guidelines to ensure high-quality artwork. Categories include oil, acrylic, and watercolor paintings, fine jewelry, pottery, sculpture, photography, 2-D and 3-D art and more. “We do have some crafts, but it’s mainly a fine arts show, and that’s what sets us apart from so many other arts and crafts shows. We accept only 10 percent of the show to be crafts and they must be at the fine arts level.”
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The show is held each year the third weekend of July. Applications are open until a couple of days before the show opens at aparkfullofart.com.
Watercolorist Kathy Los-Rathburn has exhibited at every one of the show’s 45 years. The Griffith resident studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago with friends Larry and Chuck Van Gorp. Since graduating, she has taught art at the Chicago academy and at what was then known as Purdue University Calumet. She owns Watercolor Unlimited, a studio in Griffith. The Van Gorps founded A Park Full of Art and urged Los-Rathburn to show in the first juried event.
“I was 23, just out of school, and (the event) was a good idea,” she said of the invitation from the Van Gorps. Such a good idea, that she’s shown her art there ever since. “It’s passion, the love of the art, that keeps me going,” for the park event and in her work.
But “It’s not a job — I play all the time,” she said, laughing. “Even when I was kid I was fascinated by water coloring. It’s still a challenge and I keep working to improve.”
Every year at A Park Full of Art is different, Los-Rathburn says, but the friendships she has made have endured.
No matter the weather — last year her tent was flooded — the support from the people who work there means everything. “They’re so helpful and they really run a smooth show.”
Like the other artists, Los-Rathburn sells her artwork at the event and hopes to do well this year, too. Regardless, she follows her own maxim: “Follow your heart and do what you love.”