Tonawanda News

August 15, 2013

Art on Oliver

New NT fest is vision of Project 308 gallery founder

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — After a year spent highlighting some of the area’s best up-and-coming artists, North Tonawanda’s Project 308 gallery is taking its mission to the streets.

Oliver Street, to be precise.

The first Project 308 Art Festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday on Oliver Street, which will be closed between Schenk and Robinson streets. Gallery owner Natalie Brown said about 50 vendors are expected to take part, including artists and crafters with wares that feature jewelry, paintings, blown glass and more

“I want to bring the art closer to the community,” she said. “Sometimes this area isn’t exposed to the art world as much as other areas. I wanted to give them some exposure to local talent and crafts and music and food.”

There will also be food, including Lumber Jake’s Burgers and Shakes and a vendor of homemade pastelillos, and wine tastings from The Traveling Vineyard. Musical performances will be presented by Erin Welsh and DJ Kéh Rahj. Performances will also take place inside the gallery, with dancers from the Marjorie Blakely Dance Studio of Erie Avenue at 11 a.m. and those from Danceamour at 1 p.m. Hula-Hoopers will perform and have hoops for sale, and a children’s station will include activities for younger festival-goers.

Many of the artists involved have been those with past exhibits at Project 308, Brown said.

“I think it’s going to be interesting that it will have both artists who aren’t familiar with the gallery, this is their first time being involved with a Project 308 event, but then we’re going to have a lot of artists that have had shows here,” she said. “That’s what I like about the gallery. One event can lead to so many other things.”

North Tonawanda resident Sherri Marranca’s artwork was featured in the gallery’s first show last year, an exhibit that was, in turn, Marranca’s first time exhibiting her work in a gallery. Saturday, she’ll be one of the artists taking part in the festival with her paintings.

“I can’t believe how much her gallery has grown, has many showings she has now,” Marranca said of Brown. “It’s wonderful, what she’s bringing to the community. It’s brightening up Oliver Street a little more, making it a place to be.

“She’s really making art accessible to everyone. She wants everyone to enjoy art.”

It seems to run in the family. Natalie Brown’s father, Paul Brown, was the originator of an art festival that took place on the street back in the mid to late 2000s. Now, he’s helping his daughter with the logistics of such an event, she said.

“He’s always been a big supporter of the arts,” she said. “I’m kind of using his ideas, and adding my own flair to it.”

Artist Tracy McGehee of North Tonawanda, who took part in those earlier shows, said she was pleased when she learned an art festival was returning to Oliver. 

“I thought, ‘I wish something like that would happen in North Tonawanda again.’ It’s so good for the community and the artists,” she said. “I love art and I love the idea of the whole festival atmosphere. It’s nice, music and food and people talking to you about your art.”

McGehee’s watercolor and acrylic paintings will be on display and for sale Saturday, but she said festivals are good for artists in more than just that obvious way.

“It’s a wonderful way to spend the entire day,” she said. “I love to look at other people’s art. I love to look at other people’s styles.”

IF YOU GO • WHAT: North Tonawanda Art Festival • WHEN: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday • WHERE: Oliver Street, between Schenk Street and Robinson Road • FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call Project 308 at

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @JillKeppeler.