Now in its 15th year, this art fair has become a staple in the Fox Valley area. See what’s in store for this year’s fair, and meet an artist who’s shown his work before.
During the weekend of May 25-26, more than 100 artists and up to 10,000 art lovers will fill the streets of downtown St. Charles for the 15th annual St. Charles Fine Art Show.
“The show has grown since it began in 1999, and it’s gained an excellent reputation – among attendees and exhibitors alike – for the high quality of art,” says Lynn Schwartz, executive director of the Downtown St. Charles Partnership (DSCP), the sponsoring organization. “In 2007, we won the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Special Events.”
The juried artists’ work includes painting, sculpture, glass, clay, wood, photography, fine art jewelry and mixed media. The show is set up along the Fox River, in the heart of downtown St. Charles.
“It’s a beautiful location, and we have a vibrant downtown,” Schwartz says. “Last year, we started our free Historic Trolley Tours, with docents onboard who tell the riders about the town’s rich history and distinctive architecture. It’s a great way for people to explore downtown, and we have five stops where they can get off and walk in the park, shop or get a bite to eat, and then take the trolley back to the show.”
Visitors can also listen to live music, performed on the covered patio at the River Rockhouse, 106 S. Riverside Ave.
A feature tent will showcase some specific aspect of the show or a particular type of art. “This is a very popular stop,” says Schwartz. “We haven’t finalized the theme for this year, but last year, for example, we featured the art of four Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame artists.”
Participating artists are both local and national, submitting their work through the website zapplication.org, which the DSCP joined with last year. “It’s an online art show management service which is free to artists, but participating shows pay a fee,” Schwartz says. “We receive about 200 applications each year, so it’s streamlined the process. It’s also made us much more visible across the country.”
The show gives out three Judges Awards, six Awards of Excellence and one Best in Show. The high-quality art is all for sale.
Assuring the quality of the art provides valuable publicity for the show. “The artists know that having only high-quality art on display attracts serious prospective art buyers,” Schwartz says.
To emphasize this, several years ago, the DSCP initiated the Purchase Awards Program. “People pledge to spend $250 at the show, which gives them access to a preview party of some of the art held the night before,” explains Schwartz. “This program tells serious art collectors that we do showcase very fine art, and it tells the artists that they will sell some pieces. Our Purchase Award patrons spent approximately $35,000 last year.”
Jeff Easley, an artist from Wellman, Iowa, creates wood wall sculptures and designs artisan furniture, and he’s participated in the St. Charles Fine Art Show since 2007. During that time, he’s garnered two Awards of Excellence and two Best of Show awards, and in 2010, he was the cover artist for the show’s program. Although he’s opted not to attend this year, he speaks highly of the event.
“The show is very well-organized, and I like all of the people,” says Easley. “The volunteers help you in any way they can.”
Easley’s work can be seen at the St. Charles Public Library, where in 2010 he created a wall sculpture as a memorial.
Visitors to St. Charles throughout the year can participate in exciting events centered around art.
“From Memorial Day to the end of June, Art Around the Corner pairs local artists with businesses that display their works, and provides a map to the locations,” says Schwartz.” The St. Charles Arts Council hosts pop-up galleries, mounting temporary exhibits at various locations, which are identified on its website. St. Charles is very supportive of the arts.”