- The St. James Court fountain offers festival goers a place to take a break at the center of the art show.
Our readers weighed in on their favorite shows in AmericanStyle‘s sixth annual Top 10 Fairs and Festivals competition, and the results are in—Louisville stole the top two spots, winning voters over with its romantic historic district. The remaining favorites are scattered across the country, proving that fine American craft is ubiquitous. But because it can take time to fully explore every nook and cranny of a fair, it’s best to have a plan before you hit the aisles. We’ve gone to the experts this year—show directors and promoters—for tips on how to get the most from each of our Top 10 shows.
- Amy Elswick presents her functional ceramics at Kentucky Crafted: The Market in Louisville, Ky.
Kentucky Crafted: The Market is exactly what it appears to be—a state-centric celebration of more than 200 local and regional artisans. Chris Cathers, program branch manager of the Kentucky Arts Council, recommends starting at the 400 aisle. “Our exhibitors are not organized by medium,” she explains. “So you will experience a wonderful mix of contemporary and traditional works.” At the end of the aisle, you’ll find frequent live performances at the Blue Moon Stage. Continue to walk through aisles 500 and 600, then return to the first, second and third for more works from bordering states. The market returns March 6-7. Visit http://kycraft.ky.gov for a $3-off-admission coupon.
- Patrons take a good look at the pottery at the 2009 St. James Court Art Show.
If you don’t dedicate the entire weekend to walking the St. James Court Art Show in Old Louisville, you may risk “sensory overload,” warns director Marguerite Esrock. “There are more than 700 booths to visit,” she explains. “So if you’re going to do the entire show, I suggest breaking it up into two days.” Six main entrances lead in and out of four square, booth-lined blocks framed by Victorian mansions. If you do walk the show in one day, grab a program and mark your route (and where you parked!). The next show takes place Oct. 1-3. To learn more, visit www.stjamescourtartshow.com.
- Goldsmith Jacob Albee and his wife Kristin welcome visitors at the Paradise City Arts Festival in Northampton.
The Paradise City Arts Festival is a multi-faceted event that incorporates work by cutting-edge emerging and established artists with an array of fine foods and live music acts. Founding director Linda Post recommends starting in the exhibition tent, where you’ll find a third of the exhibiting artists, before you break for lunch in the dining tent. Continue your afternoon in the arena building and sculpture garden. In these areas you’ll find a silent art auction, a themed showcase of exhibitors’ works, and an array of installations, fountains and garden furnishings. The show returns May 29-31 and Oct. 9-11. Go to www.paradisecityarts.com for more information.
- Scottsdale Arts Festival exhibitors Mary Filapek and Lou Ann Townsend created this brooch.
The Scottsdale Arts Festival takes place in a lush 20-acre outdoor setting. “It can take an entire afternoon just to see everything,” explains festival director Janice Bartczak. She recommends starting at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, then walking along the civic center’s footpaths. “A leisurely pace is best. Be sure to stop and chat with the artists,” Bartczak says—and soak in views of landscaped gardens, fountains and permanent sculpture installations. If you have more time, your ticket also gets you into the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art for the day. Make the trip March 12-14. Visit www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org for details.
- Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival at Midway College takes place in a gorgeous park setting. Credit: Andrew Kung.
Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival at Midway College is about quality, not quantity. “We intentionally limit the number of artists to approximately 150 so you can visit every booth at a leisurely pace,” explains event coordinator Marcie Christensen. The show culls artists from almost 20 states each year, and offers a range of mediums in each aisle. The festival also features hourly demonstrations, public art projects, live music and an indoor gallery. Another bonus? Saturday ticket holders can return Sunday for free admission. Visit the outdoor festival June 26-27. Go to www.franciscosfarm.org for more information.
- Kimberly Willcox won an award of distinction at the Kentuck Festival of the Arts in 2009 for work like this kinetic wood sculpture.
Artists and attendees converge under shady trees to celebrate the two-day Kentuck Festival of the Arts each fall. With more than 280 artists working in 12 mediums, there’s a lot to explore. Valerie Piette, program manager of the Kentuck Museum Association, recommends walking the grounds at a leisurely pace. “It’s a laid-back, welcoming environment,” she says. Emerging artists mingle with established artists, some of whom only show at Kentuck. You can upgrade your experience through the Patron Program to receive special invitations, festival passes and “Kentuck Bucks” to spend on craft. The show returns Oct. 16-17. Visit www.kentuck.org for details.
- Melissa Finelli presents her sculptural sterling silver and gold jewelry at the Bayou City Art Festival. Credit: Ben Tecumseh DeSoto.
The Bayou City Art Festival bills itself as a biannual “finely curated outdoor art gallery.” To really soak it all in, Kimberly Stoilis, executive director of the Art Colony Association, recommends you “take the time to ask questions and hear the stories behind the art,” from some of the 300 exhibitors. Stoilis says to come on opening day to see the best of the best before artists make too many sales. You can find perks like invitations to preview parties and Art Heist through the VIP program. The festival runs March 26-28 and Oct. 9-10. For details, visit www.bayoucityartfestival.com.
- T. Bayley Wharton displayed work like this “Sliding Door Shoji Cabinet” at the American Craft Council Show in Baltimore.
“The American Craft Council Show in Baltimore can be daunting for a first-time attendee,” admits Bernadette Boyle, the Council’s director of marketing and communications. To get a sense of the works of all 700 exhibitors, a game plan is a must. Boyle recommends previewing the works online, then making notes on your show guide while you walk the floor. The most important part? “Talk to the artists!” she says. “Ask about their process, what inspires them, where they’re from and where else they show their work.” Take it all in Feb. 24-27, 2011. Learn more at www.craftcouncil.org.
- Learning how to throw clay on the wheel is just one of the many activities at the annual League of NH Craftsmen’s Fair.
It’s almost critical to plan ahead for the League of NH Craftsmen’s Fair in August—there are so many demonstrations, workshops and seminars, you’ll want to schedule in your favorites. More than 200 booths are perched atop a mountain overlooking Lake Sunapee. Terri Wiltse, operations manager and fair director, recommends entering at gate one or three to wander the grounds, then stopping at the lodge, or food and performance tents, when you need a break. Another can’t-miss element? The “Living with Craft” exhibition—professionally designed room vignettes furnished entirely with handcrafted works. The fair returns Aug. 7-15. Visit www.nhcrafts.org for details.
- The Des Moines Arts Festival attracted more than 250,000 attendees in 2009.
Des Moines, Iowa
“Start on Friday, the first day of the Des Moines Arts Festival,” recommends executive director Stephen King. Pick up a festival guide and make one loop through the artist booths, taking “copious notes,” then return on a second round to talk to your favorites. If you need a break, the food courts and entertainment stages bookend the festival, so it’s easy to regroup. Upgrade to the VIP membership package to get even more out of the experience. You’ll receive credentials, a signed, limited-edition festival poster and an invitation to the members-only preview reception. Visit the show June 25-27. Find all the details at www.desmoinesartsfestival.org.