Artscape a hit, in spite of weekend heat


On city streets where brown or black dress shoes are the weekday norm, some of yesterday's Artscape visitors made quite a scene wearing wildly painted leather moccasins and high-top shoes.

Ken Hawkins, 46, strutted through the crowd on Mount Royal Avenue in a pair of red, orange and blue sneakers with purple

moons drawn on the toes. On one shoe, he wore yellow laces and on the other pink.

"Why match the laces?" he said. "The best part about these shoes are the great colors, so I've just made them better with different-colored laces." He pointed to his size 11 feet. "I've got lots of people looking at them, and I love it."

Hawkins, a Baltimore resident, said he bought the colorful shoes last year from artists who came to the festival again this summer.

Though this year's sales haven't been as high as last year, artists Mik and Claire Wright said their bright shoes, made from air-brushed pieces of leather sewn together, have gotten a lot of attention from passers-by.

"People like the colors and the patterns -- these shoes really make people feel happy," said Claire Wright, 25, who came with her husband from West Virginia for the 10th festival of the arts sponsored by the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Art and Culture.

Everyone at Artscape might have been even happier, though, if the temperatures had been a bit lower. With 99 percent humidity and highs above 100 throughout the day -- up to a record-tying 104 at 4:25 p.m. -- many visitors stayed less time than they had planned.

"My business is off this year, I'd say because of the weather," said Richard Colavito, 42, a Florida artist who has sold his wood, metal and stone jewelry at Artscape for the past four years.

Police estimated yesterday's crowd to be more than 40,000 people, but vendors said they noticed many people walking quickly past their displays instead of browsing as they usually do.

"I do like to look at all of the beautiful things, but I just can't stand this heat," said Yolanda Tiggs, 31. "I feel like I'm being cooked in an oven. I've got to get home to my air conditioning."

Those who braved the heat said the Artscape sights and events made for an exciting afternoon. While some visitors soaked up the sunshine and listened to folk musicians play, others tasted ethnic foods from sidewalk vendors.

"I'm sweating like crazy, but I still love these hot gyros," said Bryan McMurphy, 10, holding up his pita bread sandwich, a Greek specialty stuffed with pork and lamb meat. "They're kind of spicy though. I think they're making me sweat even more."

A few of Artscape's displays were inside, where visitors admired various creations ranging from baseball caps decorated with glass beads to a model of a man made out of rope, mud and sticks.

Children seemed to favor two dyed silk murals by Bethesda artist Bonnie Lee Holland that depicted stories as they were rolled along by volunteers.

"It's pretty, 'cause I like the pink people," said Chelsea Smith, 6. "I'm going to a be a real good artist when I grow up, and I can make pink people too."

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