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Published: Wednesday, 7/23/2008

More than 100 artists to exhibit at UT show


Using domestic hardwoods cut by Williams Sawmill in Gibsonburg, Michael Batdorf crafts furniture with a flair.

I try to work with the natural edge of the tree, says Batdorf, who make tables, chairs, benches, and even beds from cherry, walnut, oak, hickory, locust, and sycamore. He ll be among more than 100 artists at Sunday s Art on the Mall.

The 16th annual event will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Centennial Mall in the heart of the University of Toledo s main campus. Admission, parking, and live entertainment are free.

The fair brings in about $18,00 to $20,000 for the UT Alumni Association and draws crowds of 10,000 to 20,000, depending on weather, said Ansley Abrams, director of alumni programming.

Batdorf s one-of-a-kind pieces blend modernity with tradition: a granite-topped table may have legs that differ slightly, a bench may be made from a slightly-angled slab of wood. I work with what I ve been given, he said.

His smaller pieces, such as turnings, may sell for $10 or $15; a five-foot-long, 30-inch-high table may carry a $1,500 price tag.

Batdorf made a career from his sculptures for a decade, traveling to 25 shows a year throughout the eastern United States.

I started thinking about a different career on my way to a show in Kansas City, he said, noting that his young family was growing and art fairs usually meant long weekends away from home. Married and the father of 7, 4, and 2-year-old sons, he does woodworking in a barn behind the family s Perrysburg home. UT s Art on the Mall is one of about six shows a year within a three-hour drive he limits himself to.

His different career turned out to be teaching. A 1989 graduate of St. John s Jesuit High School, he went on to earn an art degree from DePaul University in Chicago, followed by a construction certificate from the College of the Redwoods in northern California where he learned both framing and cabinetry. After undergoing an evaluation process with the state of Ohio, he became an industrial technology teacher.

It s really fun being around the kids, said Batdorf, who will soon start his third year of teaching at Rossford High School.

He ll join other Art on the Mall favorites such as jeweler Jenny Gorkowski-Klear, photographer Agnes Barnes, glassmaker Melissa Sullivan, metal artist Sharon Tobasko, and watercolorists Clela Stelnicki, Tom Durnford, and Kathy Palmer-Genzman.

From a field of about 140 applications, 113 artists were selected, representing a broad variety of crafts, said UT s Ms. Abrams. Many of them have an affiliation with the university. About 175 volunteers assist guests and artists.

A children s tent will offer activities and games led by UT students who aim to be art teachers. Six food vendors will sell refreshments.

Repeat visitors will notice the absence of many ash trees (and the shade they provided), removed because of the emerald ash borer. For seating, there are grassy areas and a few permanent benches, said Abrams.

Kick-off will be Saturday s gala. 6:30 to 9 p.m. in the Student Union Auditorium. A $50 ticket includes hors d oeuvres with food provided by seven top restaurants and caterers, beer and wine, smooth jazz by the Dan Seeman Quintet, and a silent auction featuring pieces donated by many of the artists. A hand-blown vase made in the Netherlands for Libbey Glass, will be raffled.

Art on the Mall is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the center of the University of Toledo s main campus. There is no admission and parking is free. The most convenient parking is off Bancroft Street and Towerview Blvd. East in Lots 1-N and 1-S, or off Campus Rd. in Lot 13. A bit farther along Towerview Blvd. is Lot 10. Information: 419-530-2586.

Contact Tahree Lane at: tlane@theblade.com or 419-724-6075.

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