By Steven Hoffman
Each year, as part of the Mushroom Festival, local artists take the challenge of creating a unique work of art out of a mushroom-shaped concrete garden stool that stands three feet tall and weighs 108 pounds.
It's a daunting task but, as Mushroom Festival board member Anita Swayne pointed out, the results are always stunning.
“They are absolutely gorgeous,” she said of this year's entries. “It’s interesting to see the different designs that the artists come up with.”
The painted mushroom silent auction is a way to generate revenues—usually several thousand dollars a year—but it’s also a way for local artists in the area to participate in Kennett Square’s largest annual event.
“It is a good way for them to display their artwork,” Swayne said.
One of the artists who participated this year is Katherine Reitz, a longtime Kennett Square resident. Her painted mushroom is displayed at Kennett Glass. Reitz said that her inspiration for the work were the peacocks that she used to see while visiting her grandparents in Landenberg.
“I realized that the mushrooms didn't have to have a link with the business that they were displayed, but for Kennett Glass I thought, 'why not go for a stained glass look?'” she said.
For the first time ever, the entries in the silent auction are being displayed in local businesses throughout town during the month of August.
“This has always been a silent auction, but we thought it would be a nice community event to have them displayed throughout Kennett Square,” Swayne said.
Here’s a look at some of this year’s artists and their entries, which can be viewed on the Mushroom Festival website (www.mushroomfestival.org):
“Green Eyed Mushroom” by Regan Dunleavy
Regan Dunleavy's painted mushroom was on display at the Green Eyed Lady. She is a junior at Downingtown West High School who enjoys all aspects of art, especially painting and drawing. She chose colors to reflect a bright day outdoors and designs to reflect the unique items found at the Green Eyed Lady boutique. Dunleavy plans to pursue a career in art.
“Under the Sea” by Kristina Smith:
Kris Smith's creation, the “fishmushroom” was on display at the Paws and Claws pet store, and she was pleased to represent the store this year. With a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Old Dominion University, Smith works on creative projects as the director of her company, Sabol Communications, and provides digital sales support as the digital concierge for Delmarva Broadcasting Company. She blogs about inspirational women online at www.smartwaves.org for the SmartTalk Media Group. Kris has resided in Kennett Square for eight years.
“Peacock's Delight” by Kat Reitz
Kat Reitz is a Kennett Square native who graduated from Tyler School of Art in 2005 with a BFA in painting, drawing and sculpture. She received her Master in Art Education from Mansfield University in 2011 and now teaches at Art at Maria Bracetti Academy High School in Philadelphia. Although Reitz's preferred style in which to create art is abstraction, she loves all things Art Nouveau. Her painted mushroom was on display at Kennett Glass.
“Sunflower Delight” by Cristen Hess
Cristen Hess holds a B.S. in Art Education from Kutztown University, where she focused on painting and watercolor. She currently teaches Elementary Art at Family Foundations Academy in New Castle, Del. She has been the Summer Camp Art Director at The Independence School in Newark, Del. for the past two summers. She is experienced in painting wall murals, traditional scenes, abstract works, and paintings inspired by nature.
Cristen instructs and has contributed a number of original paintings for Kennett Design, where her mother, Marion Hess, is co-owner. That is also where her painted mushroom was on display. Her sister, Lauren, helped with some of the painting of the mushroom stem and base. Some of Cristen’s other artwork can be viewed at www.crishessdesign.shutterfly.com.
“Through the Looking Glass” by Lou Marshall
Lou Marshall is a children's room designer, muralist and illustrator. For over 18 years, Marshall has been creating Happy havens for children. Her work is featured in residential and commercial places, including hospitals, early education centers and entertainment facilities. She is recognized nationally not only for her creativity but for her one-of-a-kind design elements and interiors. Her whimsical room designs and accessories engage children with colorful characters and humorous messages, bringing joy, delight and interaction for everyone. Marshall travels nationally with the goal of creating wonderful spaces that inspire imagination, recreation and education. Learn more at www.loulouswhimsicals.com and see her painted mushroom at The Woodlands at Phillips.
“Woodland Wonders” by Katie Daubertin
Katie Daubertin said that the inspiration for her painted mushroom was the beautiful wooded areas around Chester County. Her creation was displayed at Kennett Jewelers. Daubertin is a junior at West Chester University working toward a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She has lived in Kennett Square since 2005 and is a 2011 graduate of Unionville High School. Her inspiration for the painted mushroom is the beautiful wooded areas of Chester County.
Swayne said that the silent auction of the painted mushrooms is one of the regular events that bring many people back to the Mushroom Festival year after year.
“It is one of the popular draws,” she said.
Reitz said that she is pleased with the finished product and is very happy that it will be auctioned off for a worthy cause.
“I'm a big fan of the Mushroom Festival and I'm glad to be a part of it,” Reitz said. “It was fun doing it, and any time you can help somebody else that just makes it more special.”
People can place bids on the painted mushrooms online now through the end of the festival at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 8, which is when the auction officially closes. During the Mushroom Festival, the painted mushrooms are on display in a booth near the Kennett Square Inn.