The Old Town Art Fair is this weekend. It’s one of the better outdoor art festivals, so my husband and I always go. This year’s fair was one of the best, so if you’re in town I recommend it, both for the art and the people-watching.
The fair is crammed into the notoriously narrow streets of the tony Old Town neighborhood. The crowd is heavily white and upscale, so much so that we saw almost no people of color, except for a mailman, who, undeterred by the festivities, was out delivering the mail and earning a living. Female fair-goers deck themselves out for this event, loading on the jewelry, the designer shoes, and one-of-a-kind dresses (this year including many maxis).
Old Town is filled with many beautiful old homes with postage-stamp yards and secret back gardens lying at the end of narrow, old, brick paths and alleys. The fair combines with a garden walk, inviting visitors to look up from the art and appreciate their surroundings.
The fair’s organizers have made significant changes this year to make the fair more lively and interesting. Nearly forty percent of the exhibitors are new, while the number of booths is smaller than previously. I’m sorry I didn’t take more pictures of the art and artists, but two who stood out were Candra Boggs and Taylor Mazer. I also liked the work of Daryl Thetford (lead image, above).
We bought a salad bowl made of ash from Stephen Noggle.
There were a number of amazing jewelry stalls (perhaps a disproportionate number), many clustered along Orleans. The creations of Dora Winchester and Thomas Turner were mouth-watering and made me long to buy something.
I also admire the work of P. A. Kessler, a veteran exhibitor, whose meticulous botanical watercolors are distinctive and lovely. We have one of her large orchid paintings, which we like very much. She, like many other artists here, offers work at widely varying prices, so that visitors on a budget can still patronize the artists by buying something small.
Looking at art is tiring, so for relief we headed to the Grill on the Green, a sweet outdoor cafe that the Church of Three Crosses runs.
The man selling tickets sold us on the veal brats, which were delicious! Volunteers from the church had plenty of Chicagoans’ favorite foods on the grill.
It was very pleasant to be outside on a passable day. (The weather was cool but not rainy; there was even some sun.) The grill doesn’t have alcohol, but several nearby concessions were selling drinks, beer, and wine. Like everything else at the fair, the food and live music have noticeably improved.
Though I’m shy, I love going to the fair and even chatting with the artists sometimes. Even if I can’t buy anything, I learn more about the exhibitors afterward by looking at their links, listed on the fair’s easy-to-use web gallery. Many artists blog about what it’s like to travel around like this trying to sell their art, which ends up being a colorful if difficult and unpredictable way of life. While they come from all over, some of the exhibiting artists are local, and many show at other Chicago festivals, so there are chances to see their work again and buy something next time.
Admission is $7. A modest cost for a memorably good time.
Click images to enlarge.