There is an urgent buzz at the Castellanos’ house now that the second annual Forest Park Arts Fest is approaching.
Down in the basement, surrounded by her signature plush toys, 15-year-old Luisa Castellanos plans a children’s workshop and a community mural project. Up in the second-floor garage, her brother, Adi, 13, is preparing to make his Forest Park debut.
The younger Castellanos makes leaf pendants, leaf-shaped bowls, birdbaths with butterflies and tiki heads from clay. He glazes them with his favorite reddish-gold tint, textured iron.
“I think it’s fun to do, I like being creative,” Adi said of his clay work. This weekend, Adi Castellanos will break his sisters’ record as the youngest artist to show at the Forest Park festival.
“He’s a hoot. We call him an old soul because he gets along with his classmates,” Annette Nocek, program manager for arts and general interest for the Elmhurst Park District, said.
Adi first learned about pottery at age 9 when an artist visited his school at Hawthorne Elementary in Elmhurst and brought along a wheel and some clay. His first lessons came from family friend and artist Teri Litavsky, who lives a block away, and was thinking of teaching pottery.
Now Adi is in both pottery classes at the Wagner Community Center, one teaching basic pottery and the other raku-fired ceramics, a Japanese technique. He exhibited his work and sold wind chimes at his first show at the Elmhurst Garden Walk and Faire.
Not bad for a former assistant to festival organizer Roz Long, who assigned him to pass out programs at last year’s festival.
“I think for his age, he’s incredible,” Long said. “Adi’s mother taught him to macramé [making textiles using knots], and the next day, he was selling these pieces with fabulous macramé. I bought one of his necklaces and gave it to my sister as a gift, and she thought it was designed by experts. If you look at his pieces, you wouldn’t think it was by a 12-year-old.”
Long and five other judges selected about 60 works for the weekend Arts Fest at Madison Street and Constitution Court. The six judges, artists in their own right, consider the artists’ level of expertise, educational background, awards, their work with galleries, and the way they decorate their booths. Long said she would like to see more emerging artists apply to join the art fest.
“I have to see their work,” Long said. “It can be young, but I need to be able to like the work, too. The Castellanos are an unusual case – I’m very impressed with Adi’s level of expertise.”
There will be pieces of jewelry, fiber, ceramics, glass, mixed media, painting, photography, sculpture and wood at the 2008 show. The Castellanos siblings will be sharing a booth.
Other events at the Arts Fest include musicians, workshops for adults and children – including a plush workshop headed by Adi’s sister Luisa – mural painting, dancers, a stilt walker, and a magic show. Long expects about 5,000 people to come, up from 3,000 of the year before.
Deb Dworman’s Deedee & Edee store will be open, as will Jeanine A. Guncheon’s studio. Guncheon has exhibited work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show and Smithsonian Craft Show. Photographer Chris Guillen will also be present – he currently has work on display at the Whole Foods Café.
Adi is still the typical teen, interested in tennis and rock climbing, and plays video games when friends are around. He said he’s making sure they all come see him at the art fest.
His mom said he’s starting to take an interest in plants, helping his dad garden and tending a growing collection in his room.
“He says he wants to be a landscape architect when he grows up,” Donna Castellanos said. “We have his leaf bowls around our yard and he makes sure they’re full of water.”
Adi described his work with a humble, sensitive proclivity. His instructor at the Wagner Center had given him additional studio time and loaned him a wheel two summers ago, seeing how seriously he wants to learn, and how well he’s been progressing.
Adi chose not to make wind chimes for this art fest, but is hard at work on his necklaces and butterfly birdbaths – the pieces that intrigue and challenge him the most. He has plans to join next summer’s Art in the Park at Wilder Park.
“Pottery is slow and time consuming, but I like it. I can still make good pieces,” Adi said.