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Waterway Arts Festival’s Best of Show Winners Build Anticipation For Next Year’s Extravaganza In The Woodlands

A Unique Festival Produces All Sorts of Winners

BY // 04.25.23

The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival committee handed out Best of Show awards in six categories this year. Winning allows the artist to return with no booth fee for next year’s festival. It also grants them automatic entry into the festival for the next two years, letting them skip the jury process.

A team of judges representing The Woodlands Arts Council review works from all the participating artists to select Best of Show winners. The judges are local gallery owners, art teachers, artists and business professionals. Artists are scored on artistic merit and on booth presentation. One first-time show participant and former Featured Artists were among this year’s Best of Show winners.

Let’s take a look back at this unique arts extravaganza in The Woodlands:

Michael Steddum, Painting

From Webb City, Missouri, Michael Steddum was “surprised and humbled” to be selected a Best of Show winner. A fulltime painter since 1990, Steddum says his art is “all about people.” His work is cheerful and he has a story to tell each visitor to his booth about the paintings.

Steddum has been painting since he left the military 35 years ago and despite concerns his father-in-law had, he has made a go of art as his career. His current focus in his paintings are primarily glass objects that represent situations or people.

This year marked his second time as an exhibitor at the Waterway Arts Festival.

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"Choices" takes us through a lifetime of candy choices, according to artist Michael Steddum.
“Choices” takes us through a lifetime of candy choices, according to artist Michael Steddum.

Nolan Prohaska, Glass

Prohaska is a former Featured Artist from the 2019 Waterway Arts Festival and he adds Best in Show honors in the Glass category now. Prohaska married his horticulture degree with glass making and creates intricate glass sculptures. For him, glass work was a happy accident. The ceramics course Prohaska had intended to take at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls was full.

Each sculpture from Prohaska is assembled, using strong adhesives, into a finished piece. A typical day for this artist in the studio might be “half a dozen flower heads, some other elements and some rocks.” And not every sculpture is completed with fresh materials. In one piece, Prohaska used some tall flowers that he’d produced a few months prior.

This was Nolan Prohaska’s sixth year showing at The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival.

Here is a look at some of Nick Prohaska's work, along with his medal for Best in Show.
Here is a look at some of Nick Prohaska’s work, along with his medal for Best in Show.

Patti Gary, Emerging Artist

In her first outdoor juried show, emerging artist Patti Gary won Best of Show, Emerging Artist honors. When Gary saw the festival director and other staff approaching her booth, she tells PaperCity The Woodlands she was “dumbfounded” when they awarded her the ribbon for Best in Show. She quickly credited her Conroe Arts League fellow artists for their support as she prepared for the festival, and even recognized the effort of her local florist who calls to tell her of a perfect photo specimen in the shop.

“It takes a village to support an artist,” Gary says.

While continuing to work outside of the art world full time, Gary plans to make time for a few road trips for photography, and a December trip to Maui trip is already scheduled.

Photographer Patti Gary finds beauty in nature, and in flowers that others might find “past their prime.” The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival will be her first show.
Photographer Patti Gary finds beauty in nature, and in flowers that others might find “past their prime.” The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival was her first show.

Amos Amit, Fiber

This Israeli-born batik artist is considered one of the most prominent batik artists in the United States and is former Featured Artist. at The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival. Amit moved to California in order to pursue a masters degree in landscape architecture, but turned to his creative passion for his path.

Amit has lived in the United States for the last 45 years, which allows him to travel and exhibit at art shows. He has been an exhibitor at the Waterway Arts Festival every year but one since its beginning, and is a former Featured Artist.

His best memories of the festival was the year he was chosen to be Featured Artist.

“It was wonderful recognition — seeing my image all over The Woodlands, including a big billboard on the highway,” Amit tells PaperCity The Woodlands.

Amos Amit is a regular at The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival.
Amos Amit is a regular at The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival.

Loura Dobbs, Sculpture/Metal Works

This was Dobbs’ first year at The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival and she was “thrilled to be accepted and honored to be chosen as one of the Best of Show artists.” She won in the Sculpture/Metalworks category.

Dobbs enjoyed working with every member of the Arts Committee, and says that everyone was so friendly and helpful that it made the entire experience of setting up, working and breaking down enjoyable.

“I think that positive attitude makes The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival unique among the shows I have attended,” Dobbs says. “But I must say the stunning setting for the show made the weekend most memorable.

“My thanks to everyone involved in putting on such a wonderful experience.”

Cherie Haney, 3D Mixed Media

Haney, the Best of Show winner in the Mixed Media category, began her formal art education at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. She earned her BFA from Eastern Michigan University. She began working on her own and selling her artwork at various festivals and fairs back in 1997.

Although Haney works with metal, which often has industrial connotations, she also draws inspiration from natural and organic influences. She is fascinated by the colors she’s seen during mountain biking trips through the Sonoran desert. The way the light hits ripples of water when kayaking in Florida. The practice of stacking cairns. The patterns and shapes in the shadows and light while hiking.

Cherie Haney works with metal, which often has industrial connotations, but she also draws inspiration from natural and organic influences.
Cherie Haney works with metal, which often has industrial connotations, she also draws inspiration from natural and organic influences.

Cherie Haney is grateful to have found her calling so early in life.

“Each day that I wake up and am able to create work and explore in nature,” Haney says. “I remember how fortunate I am to be realizing my dream of doing what I love.”

Yes, The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival left plenty of memories. Mark your calendar for next year’s arts extravaganza, which will take place April 12 through 14, 2024. 

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