Artists from sister cities in Latvia, Italy to share work at Carmel International Arts Festival


The Carmel International Arts Festival will get a boost this year from Carmel’s two new sister cities.

The VanRiper-Woodard Family Foundation will sponsor artists from of Jelgava, Latvia, and Cortona, Italy. Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard recommended the artists be invited to the Carmel International Arts Festival, set for Sept. 24-25 in the Carmel Arts & Design District.

“During my time in Italy, while finalizing our Sister Cities relationship with Cortona, I was able to experience firsthand the art and culture of this region,” Brainard stated. “I have also come to learn more about the art and culture of Latvia. I look forward to our residents and visitors having the chance to share in the experience as part of the cultural exchange of our new relationship. I appreciate the work that has been done by the festival board to make this happen so quickly.”

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Italian artist Sebastian DelBrenna works on his jewelry. (Photo courtesy of Sebastian DelBrenna)

Sebastian DelBrenna, an artist who works with jewelry, is Cortona’s representative. DelBrenna created his own collection using gemstones, Italian coins and chain design.

“I love to meet new people and explain our family history and tradition,” DelBrenna said. “Because our jewels are the result of our intense handwork, they are best explained face-to-face, but also because we explain the workmanship crossing our story with the story of our land and territory, Cortona. I would love to have people from Carmel coming and visiting Cortona and our family studio where the jewelry is made.”

DelBrenna has visited U.S. art festivals in the past, but this is the first since the COVID-19 pandemic halted travel in 2020.

DelBrenna’s grandfather started the business in 1947.

“My father invented four handmade chains. My idea is to use only these four handmade chains to build all our collections by hand, link by link in our family studio (in Cortona in Tuscany),” he said. “DelBrenna incorporates its signature chain into every DelBrenna design. The iconic chains are at the heart and soul of our jewelry, where each step is carried out by hand. Every single element in the signature chain is the result of an 11-step, DelBrenna-patented process.”

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Latvian artist IIze-Emse Grinberga works on a sculpture. (Photo courtesy of IIze-Emse Grinberga)

IIze-Emse Grinberga, from Jelgava, is an artist and sculptor. She is known for chamotte sculptures, which are featured in a garden by the river in her home city.

Grinberga will bring large photo posters of sculptures to share her work at the Carmel festival. She also will bring smaller pieces of porcelain meant for Christmas tree ornaments.

“It’s like a miracle, combined with the lucky coincidence,” Grinberga said. “It happened that this July I met American Honorary consul Andris P. Bērziņs and found out about the idea of sister cities. After our meetings and conversations, I took this opportunity as an honor and incredible opportunity to showcase our work on the other side of the globe.”

Grinberga came to the U.S. for college in 1995. Sculptor and professor Māris D. Benson selected a lucky-few students from Latvian Academy of Arts to receive the scholarship to study in Humboldt State University, now Cal Poly Humboldt, in Arcata, Calif.

“I was selected, and it turned out to be one of the most remarkable experiences in my life, not only to study my craft but to learn about another culture, meet new lifelong friends and participate in many events and festivals,” Grinberga said. “I’ve visited Los Angeles art galleries and many other art and craft-related events in California.”

Grinberga said Latvia is not rich in gemstones and minerals, but it does have clay.

“Therefore, it is only natural that the second-oldest profession, pottery, is the most celebrated and honored art expression and craft in my country,” she said. “From childhood I Ioved and felt familiar to clay. I understand it deeply. We have centuries-old ceramics traditions, and our education in it is fundamental and monumental, from conceptual to practical. I have learned all the mediums and materials, porcelain, stoneware, chamotte, clay, and so on.”

In addition, she will bring leatherworks by her sister-in-law, artist Ilizan Grinberga.

The hours for the festival are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 24 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 25. For more, visit

Providing a lift

Indianapolis businessman/artist/philanthropist Turner Woodard’s family has had strong ties to the Carmel arts community, dating back to when his stepfather, Guernsey Van Riper, owned the Van Riper Gallery in Carmel.

Woodard, whose business headquarters are in Carmel, studied art in Park Tudor School and the Herron School of Art and Design.

“I’ve always loved arts and arts communities and what the arts society brings to the joy of life,” Woodard said. “I’ve always been a believer and proponent of that. I love painting myself. When they needed some help in bringing this sister cities project together, I thought about it and I was happy to help.”

Given his stepfather’s ties, Woodard said it was an easy decision.

Woodard said he loved being involved in the arts community in downtown Indianapolis when he owned the Stutz building.

“The arts will be in the top three of every vibrant, progressive city,” Woodard said. “Carmel seems to be doing their share. I didn’t know too much about the Carmel International Arts Festival. I’ve been before but never with a real connection. The international tie with these artists from Italy and Latvia should be a delightful part of it.”

Woodard was one of the founders of the Stutz Artist Society. Woodard will show his work during the festival in the former home of the Evan Lurie Gallery on Main Street.

Carmel International Arts Festival Map

2022 CIAF Map copy