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"Treasure of artists'
Folk Fest showcases work of self-taught locals

LAWRENCEVILLE - "I never thought I'd be one," Herschel Kranitz said of folk artists, those who are self-taught in their respective art forms. "It was an accident," he said.

That accident led Kranitz, who worked in business for 35 years before he retired, to the rich art of mosaics - works of art composed of small, colored pieces of glass, stone, ceramics or other materials. Kranitz still has the first piece he created, a trivet of deep greens and black he admits is fairly unattractive. But it was a start. Now, Kranitz is in his studio seven days a week for as long as 12 hours fitting together the pieces that make up his art. He also teaches his craft to others.

Kranitz, a Norcross resident, is one of 100 exhibitors from all over the U.S., along with a handful of artists and dealers from Canada, who will have pieces on display and for sale at this weekend's Folk Fest, which showcases the work of self-taught artists and is in its 15th year.

Dubbed the "world's greatest self-taught art show and sale," Folk Fest draws thousands of people to the Norcross area to see and purchase art ranging from paintings to pottery, and it's the only show of its kind in the U.S., said Steve Slotin, founder and director of the annual event.

Slotin's not a folk artist, but he does appreciate this raw form of artistic expression. He was introduced to the work of folk artists and began collecting pieces while working as a Cliffs Notes salesman, a job in which he continuously traveled.

"Since I traveled all the time I could go visit all these artists," he said.

Slotin said he soon realized the artists he was visiting were passing away and there was no show that highlighted their work. That realization led to Folk Fest, which he started with his wife Amy in 1994.

"Since we started the show, I think we've lost about 80 to 90 percent of the folk artists around when we began," Slotin said. But many of those artists' work is preserved through this one-of-a-kind event.

Kranitz, whose work has been on display at Folk Fest since 2005, will join other Gwinnett artists like Jo Lackey of Berkeley Lake, who will showcase her whimsical style in her paintings and on T-shirts and totes, and Joycelyn Hairston of Suwanee, whose pieces reflect her deep respect and love for all things Southern.

Dan Prince, a Stone Mountain resident, will be on hand to promote artwork created by individuals who are involved with his nonprofit, Self Taught Artist Resources Inc., which exhibits the work of untrained artists, many of whom are developmentally disabled and who often create their pieces in workshops facilitated by the organization. Prince is particularly fond of the work of Jesse Dunahoo, a blind and deaf man who lives in a group home in Kentucky and quilts together plastic bags, sewing them himself. Prince doesn't know exactly why Dunahoo does this because communication between the two is difficult. "It's very mysterious," Prince said.

Self Taught Artists Resources' exhibit will feature about 50 pieces by artists from around the U.S.

For more information on Folk Fest, visit www.slotinfolkart.com.

SideBar: If You Go

· What: Folk Fest

· When: 5 to 10 p.m. today, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

· Where: North Atlanta Trade Center, 1700 Jeurgens Court, Norcross

· Cost: $15 today; $7 Saturday and

Sunday

· More information: www.slotinfolkart.com