- The Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the Original is one of four fairs held simultaneously in July that together attract more than 500,000 visitors each year.
Our readers turned out the vote in 2008 to rank events for AmericanStyle’s fifth Top 10 Fairs and Festivals list.
The stamp of approval was given to events ranging from a small Midwestern town’s art-filled weekend to a sophisticated East Coast show held in a big-city convention center. Besides revealing an obvious passion for fine American craft, the poll also made another thing clear—Kentucky art fairs have droves of devoted fans. Three shows in Kentucky made this year’s list. Read on to learn why.
1. Wausau’s Artrageous Weekend
One weekend each fall, central Wisconsin transforms into an arts extravaganza. Wausau’s Artrageous Weekend combines three events. More than 120 artists show and sell their work at Art in the Park, held in Marathon Park, while the Festival of Arts brings 100 juried artists to downtown Wausau. The highlight of the festival is the opening weekend of the annual “Birds in Art” exhibition at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, showcasing more than 120 avian-centered works by international artists, many of whom attend a special “Meet the Artists” event during the weekend. The 2009 events return Sept. 12-13. For more information, visit www.wausaufestivalofarts.org.
2. Kentucky Crafted: The Market
Kentucky Crafted: The Market is something of a hybrid show. The first two days are only open to the trade. Once the weekend hits, the show opens to the public, who turn out en masse to purchase work made exclusively by Kentucky artisans. “It’s well-stocked with a variety of talented artists,” explains attendee Jennifer Escobar of Berea, Ky. “The entertainment is high quality, the city is lovely, and the food is excellent!” Kentucky Crafted: The Market reopens to the public Feb. 21-22 at the Kentucky Exposition Center. For details, visit www.artscouncil.ky.gov.
3. Bayou City Art Festival
“The weather is always great, the music is always great, and the art is always great!” says reader Danielle Foulkrod-Chema of Pearland, Texas. The Bayou City Art Festival, held biannually in Houston, seems to be blessed with good weather; many of its supporters specifically mentioned it as a highlight of the festival. Food, atmosphere and children’s activities also earned raves, but the art is what makes this festival a perennial reader favorite. The Bayou City Art Festival returns to Memorial Park March 27-29 and will surround City Hall Oct. 10-11. To learn more, visit www.bayoucityartfestival.com.
4. Scottsdale Arts Festival
Another show benefiting from good weather and a beautiful setting is the Scottsdale Arts Festival, a program of the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Held on the grounds of the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, it boasts nearly 200 juried artists, attracting visitors from across the country. “We saw the Scottsdale Arts Festival last winter for the first time and were blown away,” says Treasure Omdahl of East Grand Forks, Minn. “The artists were charming, and their work was exemplary.” The next festival takes place March 20-22. Visit www.scottsdaleartsfestival.org for more information.
5. Des Moines Arts Festival
Des Moines, Iowa
A definite favorite of the locals, the Des Moines Arts Festival attracts more than 200,000 attendees to downtown’s Western Gateway Park. In addition to the 175 juried artists, the free festival features live entertainment, food, arts activities and more. “It is a community-wide event that brings out the very best Des Moines has to offer. It’s not just the art—which is stupendous—it’s the environment, the ambience,” explains Jim Flansburg of Clive, Iowa. “It defies Midwest stereotypes.” Make the trip June 26-28. For details, visit www.desmoinesartfestival.org.
6. St. James Court Art Show
With a backdrop of historic homes almost as picturesque as the art on display, the St. James Court Art Show is among the largest in the country, with 750 juried exhibitors. “The vendors and visitors come from all over the U.S., and you have such a mix of wonderful items to view and purchase,” enthuses local resident Donna Wallace. The festival has grown significantly since its 1957 inception as a clothesline exhibition, and is still produced by a group of five nonprofits. The show returns Oct. 2-4. To learn more, visit www.stjamescourtartshow.com.
7. Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival at Midway College
Another festival earning accolades for its idyllic setting is the still-young Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival, held on the campus of Midway College in Midway, Ky., a 205-acre working farm. “Francisco’s Farm is an outstanding art festival drawing artists and craftspeople from several states,” says supporter Jane Vancee of Versailles, Ky. “It is held in a beautiful setting … as pretty as any place in England!” The fifth annual event takes place June 27-28 in the heart of Kentucky horse country with more than 150 artists working in all mediums. Visit www.franciscosfarm.org for information.
8. American Craft Council Show in Baltimore
Held each February in the Baltimore Convention Center, the American Craft Council Show in Baltimore draws some of the most talented contemporary craft artists from across the United States. One of several shows produced by the nonprofit, the Baltimore show features nearly 700 artists. Highlights include the Searchlight Artists Gallery, an exhibition space for emerging artists, and the AltCraft section, comprised of artists from the DIY/ handmade movement. Catch it again Feb. 27-March 1. For more information, visit http://craftcouncil.org.
9. Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the Original
Ann Arbor, Mich.
When a fair needs to officially add the phrase “the Original” to its name, there must be some serious competition. Such is the case on a single weekend in July when the streets of this college town are taken over by four different art fairs. The Ann Arbor Street Art Fair celebrates its 50th year in 2009, and maintains its reputation as the most sophisticated of the four fairs. “The location is just wonderful,” explains local resident Anita Rabideau. There’s “no competition from stores or street vendors…to distract from the quality of the art that is there!” The next fair takes place July 15-19. Learn more at www.artfair.org.
10. Kentuck Festival of the Arts
“I make a pilgrimage to Kentuck every year because I am guaranteed to find amazing work, and ninety-five percent of the time I get to meet the artist who created it,” says Ashley Day of Brooklyn, N.Y. “The quality is consistently outstanding.” Few other shows in the top 10 received so many votes from out-of-towners, singling this fair out as a particularly special event. With more than 300 artists in a wooded park, the festival features a wide range of work, from contemporary craft to folk and outsider art. The festival returns Oct. 17-18. For more information, visit www.kentuck.org.