A Guide To Summer Fun At Art Festivals

SOWA FairSummer is officially here, and art festivals are in full swing. Rain or shine, close to home or away on vacation, art shows are a great way to spend quality time with friends and family. These fairs allow you to get outside into the fresh air, enjoy some light exercise, and support independent artists all at the same time. Art festivals can be hugely varied, and are usually kid and pet friendly, so they really provide something for everyone. Sometimes the shows will have live entertainment, such as street performers or musicians. Balloon animals and craft tables are often available for the kids. And after spending a few hours perusing the artists' booths, you might grab a bite to eat at a food vendor's stall or truck. You can easily find information about local art festivals in the newspaper, on local news and events websites, in tourist information pamphlets, and by word of mouth. If you follow a favorite artist, you may even get a newsletter telling you what shows they will be at this season.

Getting Ready to Go

When preparing to visit an art show, be sure to account for the weather, how long you plan to attend, and any purchases you might make. Art festivals are great in either rain or shine, but be sure to dress accordingly. Bring sunblock and a hat with a brim if it's sunny out, and an umbrella or rain jacket if it threatens to rain. (Make sure to close your umbrella when you enter a tent, so as not to drip on the artwork.) A bottle of water is another art show necessity, especially if it's hot out, and you may also want to bring snacks if no food vendors are at the show. Unless there's a place to wash your hands, avoid eating anything sticky or greasy, since you'll be handling art and crafts. Of course, you'll also want to prepare for purchases – many vendors will accept credit cards, but you should bring some cash as well. Don't count on being able to pay with a check, many vendors don't accept them. Also, consider bringing along a reusable shopping bag for your purchases.

Friends at Art Show

While You're There

Once you're at the art show, it's time for the fun to begin! Fun activities for kids might include a crafting table, face painting, or balloon animals. If street performers or musicians are scheduled, the show information booth can tell you when and where to catch the acts. In the meantime, head over to the main event – the artists' booths. Whether you're looking for a specific piece or just browsing, take the time to interact with the artists. Art festivals are a great opportunity to learn more about the people behind your favorite arts and crafts. Artists typically welcome questions about their process or about a specific piece. Some even do live demonstrations, which can be a lot of fun to watch. As you shop, you're sure to find a few pieces to purchase as gifts or for yourself. If you're not ready to buy on the day of the art fair, ask the artist for their card – local artists may have other shows you can attend, or a shop or studio you can visit. Even if you're traveling, most artists today have websites where you can purchase items online.

Art Booth

Dos and Don'ts

Art shows are pretty casual affairs, but there are a few rules of etiquette you should follow. The main thing is to respect the artist and their work. So, if you have kids or pets in tow, keep an eye on them and make sure they're behaving properly. Older children should handle art or crafts with care, and you may want to ask the artists' permission before allowing young children to touch. Pets should be well trained, able to sit or stand quietly while you browse. If your pet is bit too excited, simply keep them outside of the artists' booth so nothing gets damaged while you shop. Finally, if you are interested in photographing the artists booth or their work, always ask permission first. Some artists may not allow you to take pictures, since they have to protect their trade secrets and copyrights.

Of course, the most important thing at any art fair is to have some good summer fun! Some of the best shows in my neck of the woods (Southern New England) are the SOWA Open Market, the Providence Open Market, and the Festival Fete shows. Do you have suggestions for art festivals near you?

Photos: SoWa Sundays, Creative Commons 2.0; oddharmonic, Creative Commons 2.0; Jeff Marquis, Creative Commons 2.0