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‘Tis (Art) Festival Time!

So now that the weather here has finally decided to be vaguely spring-ish (quite an accomplishment for the middle of June), it’s time for me to roust myself out of my cave and go look at awesome things. So I can be inspired to go make my own awesome things. Or at least be grateful that someone else has meticulously crafted these finely intricate awesome things so I don’t have to. WHOA TALENT LIEK I CAN’T EVEN.

Here in Chicago there’s literally something great going on every weekend. I’m still not sure how I survived last summer. Art openings and concerts and galleries and plays and open studios and wine tastings and garden walks and live demos and specialty distillations and architecture and presentations and Design Week and food and good lord Manifestwhat just happened?

Over one weekend I hit up two such events without even trying.

The Old Town Art Fair is a juried show. That means someone (usually a group of someones) gets together and decides who does/does not get to display their stuff. Old Town also presents first and second place awards in four categories, so there are also fabulous prizes involved! While in some communities this means the same macramé lady has had her tent up on the same corner for three decades, here it pretty much guarantees greatness. Occasionally at some shows I will admit to the evil of wondering “hmm, why is that here?” but I don’t think there was a single thing here that I couldn’t at least appreciate the talent that went into the work. These guys have been doing it for 64 years, though, so maybe they’re on to something.

I was so frickin’ impressed that I picked up 22 different business cards, and noted the numbers of about fifteen other booths to look up later. Oh, and did I mention the garden walk through some of the oldest homes in the city? And music all day (including an appearance by our very own Smashley)? There’s some cool shit out there, kids.
“We are not functional, we are not toys, we will not rampage while you sleep” –

Then I stumbled into the Pivot Arts Festival without even realizing.

a man looks down upon actors on a stage from a tiny window behind them
A Burgundian pedant looks down upon thee. In polyester pants (not pictured). Photo: Backroom Shakespeare’s Facebook page

I’d heard about the Backroom Shakespeare Project by sheer chance, and enjoyed it enough to go a second time. Taming of the Shrew, sure, I hadn’t seen it, and you’ve gotta admire anyone willing to do Shakespeare in an empty bank after one possibly-drunken rehearsal. Little did I realize (until I arrived to a line of people literally down the block), this performance just so happened to be happening as a part of Pivot’s inaugural Multi-Arts Festival, “a celebration of innovative performances in our community. This year’s festival reignites the spirit of the Vaudeville Era by performing in unique and historic spaces…” which were right by my apartment! Fantastic!

Wait, I missed Mucca Pazza by one day?! DAMMIT.

Do you have awesome stuff like this happening around you? Think it’s all snootiness and uncomfortable shoes? Nuh-uh! Are there totally easy-to-wander-into festivals in your area? Hell yeah there are! Even if it’s only one weekend over the summer, just about anywhere that has people also has some sort of festival or celebration that includes art in one of its many forms. Don’t underestimate the talent that can show up in the remotest places, and behold the power of cheese… festivals.

this list is a work in progress… I’ll keep adding to it!

Arty festivals across the U.S.
Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California
Colorado Connecticut Delaware Florida Georgia
Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa
Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland
Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri
Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey
New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio
Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina
South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont
Virginia Washington> West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming
flyer on a lamppost advertising "Who-prov"
And then there’s this.

Got any (better?) state festival lists I need to add? Or festivals OUTSIDE the U.S.? Post ’em in the comments and I’ll add ’em in!

Beth Voigt

Beth is a graphic designer in Chicago, a superhero in her own mind, and absolutely nothing on TV. She wrangles fonts professionally, pummels code amateurishly, and has been known to shove fire in her face for fun. Fond of volunteering, late-night bursts of productivity, and making snacks, she dislikes grocery shopping and sticky public transit and is only on her second smartphone. Her opinion is that you should try everything twice; if you don't like it, you were probably doing it wrong the first time around. If external links are your thing, here are links to Twitter and Instagram, and you can support her ongoing weirdness by buying her a coffee or six.

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