Art show at Power & Light District goes on amid storm warnings

Dark clouds brewed Sunday over the Power & Light District. But the New Red Onion Jazz Babies played on, and Topeka clay artist Victoria Gauerke was determined to keep her booth going to the end.

“It’s a little scary,” said Gauerke, surrounded by 16 shelves of ceramic berry bowls, soap dispensers, cups and sponge holders. “But it’s a lovely show. The competition is very keen.”

More than a dozen other presenters at the Downtown Art Annual folded their tents even before Sunday’s showcase began. For the Purr-Deux glass sculptors — Kat Hogan and Jerome Ellis — whirling gusts on Walnut Street and forecasts of tornadic activity were enough to prompt an early exit back to Las Vegas.

“I’m OK with thunderstorms. Not tornadoes,” Hogan said. “And hail. Hail’s bad.”

The sixth annual art show drew 150 artists and crafters from 30 states. Public admission was free, and a few hundred visitors milled as the weekend festival came to a close — bah, storm warnings.

“We’re from Nebraska, so we know a tornado can hit without much warning,” said Billy Nelson who, with wife Jo Nelson, disassembled their display of Asian-themed mixed media hours before the clouds rolled in. “But with all the hype from news media about the possibility of severe weather, the crowds are going to be gone anyway.”

Not so fast. The clouds came and went, and Parkville cartoonist Jon Jahraus stayed for good reason: “I’m cranking ’em out.”

His personalized cartoons, that is. “I’ve been so busy to look out and know how the crowd’s looking,” Jahraus said while inking final touches to an order. “Until it gets real dicey, I’ll just hang out.”

Howard Alan Events, one of the nation’s leading promoters of art festivals, produced the juried show. Rain, shine or twister, “their shows have always been decent,” Jahraus said.