Soldiers Grove artist wins People’s Choice and Committee’s Choice Awards

John Craig has a rare ability to combine art and humor and he demonstrated that again at the ninth annual Driftless Area Art Festival Sept. 14 and 15 in Soldiers Grove.

“Hilarious!” “Thought-provoking!” “What an interesting way to look at it!”

People were commenting on Craig’s exhibit of photo collages and brief stories, titled, “Lost Treasures from the Heart of the Driftless.” They liked it so much they voted him the 2013 People’s Choice Award winner. The day before he had received the 2013 Committee’s Choice Award, given to a single artist whose booth display and body of work is judged to be exemplary in design and artistic merit.

Craig’s story telling flair has appeared in magazines and books, in advertising and in corporate brochures, on billboards and even on record album covers and pinball machines. In all of his work, he experiments with “found color,” using bits of color and texture from materials found in candy wrappers, matchbooks, postcards, game boards, posters, books, magazines; in fact anything printed.

And for the past 40 years, he has done almost all of that from a studio in a converted barn on a farm in the Driftless Area community of Soldiers Grove.

The People’s Choice Award has been given since 2008 and is sponsored by the VIVA Art Gallery in Viroqua. Previous winners were Lawrence Gehl in 2008, Joyce Dively in 2009, and Jamie Heiden in 2010, 2011, and 2012. The Committee’s Choice Award, established in 2011, is sponsored by State Street Gallery in La Crosse. Previous winners were Joan Finnegan in 2011 and Gordon Browning in 2012.

Nearly 5,000 art lovers attended the festival, enjoying the paintings, sculptures, photography, jewelry, and wood, metal and fiber art created by 79 visual artists from across the Driftless region.

Major funding partners for the 2013 festival included Peoples State Bank, Community Development Alternatives, the Village of Soldiers Grove and its Community Development Corporation, and Wisconsin Public Radio. Other benefactors included Dependable Solutions, Inc., Organic Valley Family of Farms, Rooted Spoon Culinary, Richland Grant Telephone Cooperative, Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative, and Sleepy Hollow Auto.

A complete list of patrons and supporters, information on the Friends of the Driftless Area Art Festival, a photo gallery, and full details about the festival and its artists is available at www.driftlessareaartfestival.com.

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