All the ways | Why you shouldn’t miss your next local art fair

Lindsay + Tim Stockhecke

Throughout southern illinois, and within every community across the country, art fairs are hosted in local parks, civic centers, and more. Some are well attended, some not so much. There are juried exhibits, those with vendor fees and those without. The novice and the trained. Those that call themselves artists, others choosing maker or craftsmen. The booth displays vary from pristine to last minute, and everything in between, with no one being better than the other. All arriving at this one place and time to bring their creations to us, their neighbors and strangers alike. They pour their love and their pain, their visions and their dreams out and serve them up to be seen, admired, and hopefully taken home to be honored and enjoyed. They bring them to us, gifts to be received all with the awareness that some will love what they have created and some not so much, each opinion valid and part of the experience.

This weekend we attended the 7th annual Oak Street Art Fair, hosting more than 30 juried artists, live music, children’s tent, food trucks, and beer/wine. This outdoor event spans several blocks a hop skip and a jump from Murphysboro Main Street and directly behind the General John A Logan Museum, running from 10-5pm. The location and space allowed for such a great flow in regards to parking, vendor spacing, signage and music. We spent several hours taking our time and enjoying everything they had worked hard to bring to the community. We left with the overwhelming reminder that everyone should be attening their local art festivals, and here’s why.

  1. The next Van Gogh lives at your local art fair

When it comes to ‘art’ we often feel like we have to travel to a city or see something hung up in a museum or gallery for it to be worthy. While this art, and these experiences can feel more impactful you are just as likely to see art that really moves you at a booth at the park, you just have to remember allow yourself to see it. There are gatekeepers to good art everywhere and art fairs allow you to determine what you like and dont like without being told. Because that is what art is about, feeling something, and when you attend your local art fair and meet the maker the experience elicits new and different feelings regarding their work.

2. Netflix & chill will thank you

Would you believe me if I told you Netflix and chill wouldn’t exist without your local art fair? Local art is the birthplace of ALL art, even what we see on Netflix. The people who create and bring their art to life for us to consume all start somewhere and they rely on us to support that journey. Showing up to the local art fair, even for a quick cruise through and a encouraging smile, shows the artists, local leaders and the next generation that we value the arts, they are needed within our communities and we want them to continue.

3. Tourism dollars

Art fairs generally include a variety of activities and vendors, fueling your local economy. Additionally, many vendors and attendees travel in from out of the area. They come to our communities to bring their art, returning home to surely share their experience with others. While attending we met people from towns throughout southern illinois and beyond, each of them likely purchasing gas and food at a minimum. Reflecting on the day I imagine (and hope) they were pleased with their visit and encourage others to visit as well.

Nicki Rathert, owner of Wayward Wovens and Wander community arts studio in Duquoin, Illinois.

4. The best experiences happen out of your comfort zone

If you are someone who has never or doesn’t typically attend local art fairs there are any number of reasons why. I read somewhere once that new and public art experiences can be uncomfortable and vulnerable because our tastes and preferences are on full display. Do we have bad taste? Should we like this piece of art? What does it mean? Having not spent much time at all attending these growing up and later in life marrying someone with a BA in Art Education I have had the opportunity to confront this personally. These events allow for the organic exploration of art in a low pressure environment. The vendors and attendees alike may experience the same discomfort but the best memories and moments are often made within these spaces.

5. An art community is a vibrant community

Art engages all of the senses and provokes thought. It demands evocation and communities that engage in this are inevitably more vibrant. Music, color, texture, the process and mediums used when creating fuel conversation, transaction, growth, and more. It allows for people to move through difficult times, manage mental health, and share their expanding empathy and compassion. An art community IS a vibrant community and you are a piece of this puzzle.

I will leave you with one final tip. If you cannot stop thinking about a piece of art you see, even if you aren’t sure why, this is your sign to get it. Take it home, find the perfect spot, and allow the feeling it evokes to live on your wall or shelf.

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