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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Art by the River returns to Amherstburg

by Adam Gault

For more than 50 years, thousands of devoted artists and art enthusiasts from far and wide have made their way to Amherstburg to attend the annual, two-day, Art by the River festival. Through the event, hundreds of artists and vendors, along with their original works, are showcased

  Now in its 52nd year, more than 10,000 visitors from across Canada and the United States descended on the historic and picturesque Fort Malden grounds this past weekend for the long-running art festival. Neither the extreme wind and rain of Saturday, nor heat on Sunday, could discourage art lovers from attending as lineups to enter the event stretched beyond gates prior to the festival opening on both days.

  “When it was pouring rain [on Saturday], and we opened at 10, we had people actually coming through with their umbrellas, because they wanted to be the first people onsite and get the choice pickings,” Bonnie Deslippe, who is an event organizer and Public Chairperson for the Gibson Gallery, said of the devotion of many in the artistic community. “That was totally amazing to me.”

  Art by the River is one of the year’s primary fundraisers for Amherstburg’s Gibson Gallery, which strives to “Encourage and foster cultural development in the fields of fine arts and applied arts,” and provide a space for local artists to exhibit their craft.

“Without this event, we would not be able to keep the gallery open,” Deslippe said. “This raises the funds which allows us to run the gallery for a year. We don’t charge admission at the gallery. Our mandate is to promote the arts in the area.”

  One local, upcoming artist whose been featured in the Gibson Gallery, and took part in the Art by the River festival for the second time, is 16-year-old Madison Young. The talented artist has a penchant for realism in drawing animals, portraits, and still life.

  “I guess I was always kind of an artsy kid. I always enjoyed making stuff and doing crafts,” Young explained of her early development as an artist. “As I got older, and kept pursuing art, I just loved it more and more.”

  When Young began drawing as a young child, she originally honed her craft by drawing flowers and Disney characters. However, an Instagram post she came across several years ago, started her on the path to more realistic works.

  “I saw a drawing of a cupcake, and it just looked so real. So, I decided to try to draw my own realistic cupcake to see if I could make a super-realistic drawing, too, and it did look pretty good, so I decided to keep pursuing that,” Young said.

  Art by the River also serves as an incredible networking tool for many in the art community, as it provides a way to connect with other artists and fans, and that plays a big part in why artists, like Madison Young, continue to attend year-after-year.

  “I meet so many friendly people, and I meet people who say that they follow my work and are fans, so it’s really cool to meet them, too,” Young said. “I guess it’s just all the different people that I get to meet here.”

  For more information on Madison Young and to view her works, visit

The event also featured a Live Art Contest with a theme of Canadian Art - With A Twist. First place winners were Kaitie Lessard and Sallma Majthoub, of St. Clair College and Wayne State University. In second place were Sophia Fallea and Mandy Brunet, of Villanova High School. Calista Papaefthimiou and Trinity Hallett, of Sandwich Secondary, were in third, and fourth place winners were Emily Roe and Laura Fontaine, of the University of Windsor.


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