Richardson's Cottonwood Art Festival

The Extraordinary Paintings of Alla Tsank

Somewhere around the beginning of May (and again in the fall) the city of Richardson, Texas invites artists from across the country to gather in Cottonwood Park for a big market day celebration of beauty and imagination. The Cottonwood Art Festival features some brilliant and rigorously curated talent, and is described by the artists themselves as one of the best art shows in the country. This year we decided to pay a visit as a family. And although the younger two would crap out early from the mild heat and post-rainy day humidity, we did manage to hang around just long enough for me to discover my new favorite artist, Alla Tsank.

More on her later.

For anyone in the area who’s actually thinking of attending one of these shows, know that parking can be a nightmare, especially if you show up midday, like we did. We lucked upon a spot not too far from the park, but far enough that my younger kids were already whinging by the time we got to the gates. The show is free to attend, which is good, because we weren’t able to stay very long. 🙄

Corndogs, Funnel Cakes

Thankfully there were plenty of food stalls, ranging from typical carnival fare all the way to top-end food trucks. There was of course plenty of Texas BBQ, and even a Cajun truck. But a little snow cone goodness was enough to placate the kids, so with that taken care of we were off to explore the grounds.

The heavy rain in days prior had added some mugginess to the spring heat, and the ground was fairly wet. To compensate for that, the festival organizers had laid down a thick layer of hay that soaked up the mud, keeping your shoes relatively clean. In addition to artists and craftsmen of all types, there was the aforementioned food and drink available, and even live music.


We made our way around the tents, navigating the crowds as best we could. The show was pretty packed, but not unreasonably so. We never had to wait in line to get in a tent, and no one was shoving us out. We were able to talk briefly with several of the artists, and they were all interesting and kind people who seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves. I had naively entertained the idea that I might be able to display there myself, but I clearly didn’t understand the caliber of the professionals they invite. It would be nothing to walk out of there with ten grand worth of merchandise from just one or two stalls, and still regret that you’d had to pass on so much good stuff. Still, though, it’s something I have in mind to do someday, maybe in a more humble venue.

An Artist's Booth

One of the first booths that called to us belonged to Mary DiStefano-Jarowitz, an artist whose muted colors and folk-art inspired paintings I thought Kassi in particular would like. However it was our Anthony who begged for a little something from her stall, a box print of a tiny red bird for his bedroom. He’s a funny kid. A real patron of the arts, that one. He was only four the first time he asked for a painting to hang in his bunk. It was of a yellow school bus, bought from At Home. Not sure what attracted him to the bird, but we picked it up and moved on.

The Booth of Artist Kevin Liang

A little way further on, past a custom knife maker from Kentucky and couple of young female artists with more contemporary paintings and drawings, we rounded the corner and came upon the stunning work of Kevin Liang. Kevin is a Chinese artist from Brooklyn who paints these really vivid nature scenes, and his impressionistic rendering of trees in autumn are pretty breathtaking. He writes his own poetry, too; a kind of haiku that he combines with smaller paintings on paper he makes himself. I spoke with him a bit, as he seemed very interested in my camera, which was amusing to me. I asked if I could take this picture of him at his stall, to which he agreed. I was grateful, since photography at the stalls is generally prohibited. I like people who show pride in their work. Mr. Liang had a lot to be proud of.

Beautiful Rustic Framing

This photo, for example, I had to sneak in, because I wanted to capture the cool rustic framing idea. I’d like to duplicate that for some of my own.