New local art fair welcomes all to participate

Ciemantha Kosechata says she wanted to grant exposure to artists from all backgrounds, so she created this art festival to connect people to the Westside community.

By Joe Arce and Corey Crable

Ciemantha Kosechata has a message for any artist who might feel rejected by the art world – come to the West Side All Are Welcome Art Fair and Free Concert.

As the name of the event clearly states, the fair is designed to welcome artists of all skill levels and allow them to have their works displayed to the general public. This was the first year for the fair, which took place last weekend at the corner of West Pennway and Summit in KC Westside community.

“I was wanting to be part of an art fair in Lawrence and asked if I could join. They asked me to send some photos of my work and they rejected me they said I wasn’t a good fit for their art fair,” Kosechata explains. “I’ve never been rejected before, so I had some hurt feelings. I was talking about it to one of my friends and they said, ‘Why not have your own art fair?’ I thought, ‘That’s genius. Why not?’ So here we are.”

Fifty local artists had their works displayed at the fair, which included seven food trucks on site, a pumpkin decorating contest, and a free concert by local musicians in the evening.

“I am so, so, so happy,” Kosechata says. “I worked really hard to put this together and seeing it all today makes me so happy. A lot of people have said, ‘You should do this quarterly.’”

Kosechata says she wanted to grant exposure to artists from all backgrounds while keeping costs minimal.

“We didn’t charge any of the artists to be a part of this, so you see artists here that you wouldn’t normally see,” she says. “By having it free, I wanted artists to have a place for artists to sell their art and for the community to see them.”

In addition, Kosechata says a silent auction allowed attendees to bid on art they wanted to take home. Any donations, she says, would help fund next year’s fair.

Jorge Coromac, director for the Westside Community Action Center (CAN), says he’s worked with Kosechata to assist with the art fair, and that he is impressed with her skill in bringing such an event to the West Side community. She has already helped the CAN Center in covering up graffiti in the area after appealing to the city, Coromac notes.

“Ciemantha has energy she’s already done the mural on Cesar Chavez Avenida that says, ‘Welcome to the Westside,’” Coromac says. “She is one of our neighbors she’s talented and helping us deal with the graffiti. We’ve reached out to the city, but it’s uncontrollable.”

Coromac says the center is searching for grants to help fund more graffiti removal.

“All of that paint, the paint brushes, it all costs money,” he says, “(but) we can all do this together.”

Coromac, who says the center had 15 artists represented at the fair, spent a good portion of the day vaccinating more than 200 cats and dogs. The CAN center has provided basic vaccinations for such pets for 17 years, he says.

Between the pet vaccinations, graffiti removal and the art fair, Coromac says he’s had the opportunity to meet Westside residents both young and old.

“The Westside is diversifying a lot. We have the older longtime residents and new residents at the apartments that are going up,” Coromac notes. “Many of the newer residents have brought their pet here, and they’re learning more about the Westside neighborhood. We’re asking them to keep learning and keep working together to make the Westside beautiful.”