Youth Artists Aim to 'Wow' Visitors at Uptown Art Fair

Updated: 08/03/2013 9:28 AM By: Maricella Miranda

Dialyn Thelen knitting at Bobiam in Uptown.
Dialyn Thelen knitting at Bobiam in Uptown.
Photo: Photo: KSTP/Maricella Miranda

When Dialyn Thelen broke both her ankles in sixth grade, she prepared for being bedridden and bored.

But that was before her grandmother taught her to knit. She picked it up in two weeks.

Today, the 16-year-old has knitted about 3,000 hats.

She tailors some small enough for babies, while others are inspired from childhood stories, like “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” Her hats for older customers sport a wilder side – featuring Mohawks, neon colors and pom poms galore.

This year will be Thelen’s third time selling her hats at Tomorrow’s Stars Youth Art Fair. It’s part of the Uptown Art Fair, which is celebrating its 50th year. The event starts Saturday, Aug. 3, along Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, and runs until Sunday.

“My goal is to sell,” said Thelen, a Chisago Lakes High School 11th-grader. “I’m a broke teenager, and I love what I do, so whatever profit I make is good.”

And business has been good. Thelen earned enough cash knitting and selling hats to buy her first car, which she and her dad painted like a zebra.

She’s now expanded her business, Dialyn Designs, beyond art fairs into stores like Bobiam in Uptown, where she sells her hats as part of its youth artwork collection.

“My goal is to have it be a brand name – ‘like wow you have a Dialyn Designs hat. That’s cool.’ And just for people to really enjoy what they wear for their hats, or maybe T-shirts ... I don’t know, we’ll see what happens,” she said.

For 10-year-old Fiona Rucker, this year will be her first time selling oil pastel paintings and photography at Tomorrow’s Stars Youth Art Fair.

“I’m a little nervous” she said. “I’m nervous if my art will sell very well.”

Fiona specializes in drawing fantasy creatures, like dragons and flying snakes. She ventured into photography, taking snapshots of nature, after a trip to Alaska last year.

Fiona has always loved visiting art fairs, said her dad Derek Rucker. When he discovered that the Uptown Art Fair had a youth section, he encouraged Fiona to apply.

“For years we’ve been going to art fairs, Uptown Art Fairs and other ones, and getting Fiona away from them has always been a challenge,” he said. “It never really occurred to us that she’d be able to participate this young.”

Fiona got in – along with 49 other youth artists ages 8 to 18.

It’s the ninth year for the Tomorrow’s Stars Youth Art Fair, said Maude Lovelle, executive director of the Uptown Association, which organizes the event.

Lovelle and her staff also help mentor the artists with their budding careers, explaining how to price items and how it’s important to have a diverse collection for customers.  

“For us to be able to give them the platform to be in front of hundreds of thousands of people, is something that we take great pride in,” she said.