When visitors flock to downtown Clayton this weekend, they will experience one of the most renowned art fairs in the country. Now in its 18th year, the Saint Louis Art Fair will offer not only 181 artists from 35 states and two countries but also live entertainment, food, ice sculptures, sidewalk-chalk painting and interactive exhibits.
The event happens in the Clayton business district, bordered by Maryland and Carondelet avenues on the north and south, and Central Avenue and Brentwood Boulevard on the east and west. A map of the event may be printed from the festival website.
Cultural Festivals has been producing the event since its inception in 1975, when approximately 75,000 people attended. This year, attendance is expected to reach 150,000. Artists vie for a spot in the prestigious festival.
“There were 1,500 artist applications to participate in the fair this year,” said Cindy Lerick, executive director of Cultural Festivals. “Only one out of 10 are selected.”
In addition to benefiting an artist's career, participation in the fair can be lucrative.
“It's common for galleries from near and far to attend looking for new artists,” Lerick said. “Businesses will come if they're planning a renovation. Designers come. The artists get sales during the weekend of the show and then get sales after the show, too.”
Along with art, attendees will be able to listen to music and watch entertainment throughout the event on three separate stages. Gourmet food from St. Louis' finest restaurants also will be available at Pleasures of the Palate. Kids can get in on the fun with the interactive Creative Castle, and adults can stretch their creative and artistic sides in the Art Studio.
The fair also features several specialty events. For the first time, ice sculptors from L’École Academy for Culinary Development will chip, sand and chisel their way from ice block to cool art on each day of the festival. It will happen at three different times and locations.
The premier event at this year's festival is Walking on Art, a sidewalk chalk drawing competition featuring 10 St. Louis-area high schools. The specific schools involved have not yet been finalized. Four chalk drawing masters—including Cape Girardeau’s acclaimed chalk master Craig Thomas—will be in attendance. Each artist not only will create masterpieces of his or her own but also will visit participating schools before the event to work with the students on sidewalk drawing technique.
“It's taking math skills and art and putting it on the ground,” Lerick said. “If you've never seen one of these sidewalk paintings done from beginning to end, it's amazing.”
The three winning high school teams will receive $100, $250 and $500 worth of new art supplies for their schools. The Walking on Art event is sponsored by a grant from the PNC Foundation. Sidewalk painting will take place in the parking lot across from and the on South Meramec Avenue.
Lerick is in her third year as executive director of Cultural Festivals. Previously, she was with the Uptown Art Fair in Minneapolis, MN, and the Fort Worth Arts Festival in Texas. She said another aspect of the Saint Louis Art Fair sets it apart from other art events.
“Clients will purchase art one year and the following year have the artist come in early for a party or a special show,” Lerick said. “I've never encountered this before. It's unique to St. Louis.”
In addition to art, food and entertainment, the Art Fair provides something less tangible.
“It exposes people to art with no sense of 'Are you smart enough?'” Lerick said. “People can see art in 181 styles with no scrutiny—no sense of commitment. Artists have to be here, so you get to talk to them. It's a great way to introduce people to the arts.”
ALSO ON PATCH
The Saint Louis Art Fair begins Friday and continues through Sunday. It runs from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.