2021 Smoky Hill River Festival Merit Awards

The 45th Smoky Hill River Festival Merit Award-winning artists represent the exciting breadth and high quality of artistic talent that the annual festival features. The awards were presented with fanfare to the artists at their booths on Saturday, September 4th, amidst the festival weekend festivities.

The top merit awards are the Martha Rhea Merit Award and the Marie Chapman Merit Award. Martha Rhea and Marie Chapman were both integral in the development of the Smoky Hill River Festival from its inception 45 years ago.  A panel of five art professionals were onsite to jury the artist’s work based on a number of criteria such as innovation and craftsmanship, originality, evidence of personal imagination, and the use of quality materials.

Steffan Plisterman, a painter and new artist to the Show, was awarded the Martha Rhea Merit Award for his unique work with glass, producing lasting and truly original works of art.  Charley Forsyth, a returning River Festival artist, received the Marie Chapman Merit Award for his engaging and original relief prints which are carved and printed by hand.

The other Merit Award winners were:

  • Roura Young, a painter from Lawrence, Kansas
  • Sean Cusick, a mixed media artist from St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Michelle Chang, a mixed media artist from Rowland Heights, California
  • Sheldon Ganstrom, a ceramicist from Hays, Kansas
  • Caitlin Penny, a printmaker from Lenexa, Kansas
  • Wanda Taylor, a colored pencil artist, from Cameron, Missouri
  • Emily Chamberlain, a ceramicist from Wichita, Kansas
  • Akeem Ayanniyi, a wood artist from Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Paul Gilliam, a wood artist from Timbo, Arkansas
  • Hannah Gebhart, a printmaker from Des Moines, Iowa
  • Anna Elmore, a fiber artist from Longmont, Colorado
  • Issac Shue, a ceramicist from Harper, Kansas

The celebrated Fine Art & Craft Show included more than 130 Festival artists, including Art/Craft Demonstration artists, four live stages of entertainment, a colorful Artypolis children’s area, more than 30 Food Row vendors, site-specific outdoor Art Installations and more.

Artists who win an annual award at the River Festival’s Fine Art & Craft Show are recognized for the body of work they exhibit each year and receive an automatic invitation to the 2022 Smoky Hill River Festival.