Fueled by a local craft brew and an overflowing gyro from a food stand, I wandered from tent to art-filled tent at the downtown 2014 Des Moines Arts Festival. Pastel paintings of gorgous florals, curvy glass-blown vases and, yes, even sculptures of copper wire rabbits on bikes caught my attention as I weaved through the laid-back crowd. (I could picture the painting and vase in my living room; the wire rabbit—not so much.) But like works in a museum, they were all fun to see. Each summer, stunning pieces of original art make their debut at art fairs across the Midwest. Festivals are a great way to view (and purchase) one-of-a-kind art while enjoying a street party with live music and local cuisine.
I love how there's something for everyone at Des Moines' award-winning free art fest, which drew 195 juried artists from across the country this year. Booths showing off $4,000 splashy abstract paintings sat next to tables of $50 painted pottery pieces. Here are just a few of my favorite finds from artists in our region, along with links to see more of their work.
White Grain Elevator, $1,674, by Clare Malloy of Chicago (claremalloy.com). Her pastels of barns give this Midwest staple a contemporary edge.
Glazed ceramic dishware by Paul and Laurel Eshelman of Elizabeth, Illinois (eshelmanpottery.com). Bowls, $48; dinner plates, $60; espresso cups, $30. I love the beautiful shapes and colors of these utilitarian pieces.
8x8 Original acrylic on panels, $65 each, by Laura Nugent of Little Canada, Minnesota (lauranugent.com). To make her art affordable, Laura offers these smaller versions of her lively, bright paintings.
Necklaces by Patty Schwegmann of Champaign, Illinois (schwegmannstudios.com). Prices range from $165 to $185. Painted porcelain clay circles in sterling silver settings look like mini works of art around the neck.
Wooden candle holders from Kara Schlabaugh of Kalona, Iowa (kschlabaugh.com). Prices range from $9 to $12. One of the Emerging Iowa Artists at the festival, Kara displayed her modern wooden candle holders, along with landscape and abstract paintings.
Ready to discover Midwest art for yourself? Check out one of these upcoming art festivals in our region—or another fair near your home:
July 12 and 13 Art Fair on the Square, Madison, Wisconsin
July 12–14 Krasl Art Fair, St. Joseph, Michigan
July 16–19 Ann Arbor, Michigan offers four art fairs in one weekend:
Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the Original
The State Street Area Art Fair
The Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair
Ann Arbor’s South University Art Fair
August 1–3 Uptown Art Fair, Minneapolis
August 9 Waterfront Art Festival, Charlevoix, Michigan
August 23 and 24 Port Clinton Art Festival, Highland Park, Illinois
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