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3 American Art Festivals for Early Summer Fun

Outdoor art festivals are some of the most popular summer events in the US. Patrons can admire masterful creations of all kinds and find unique pieces for their homes.

If you’re a fan of the arts, you probably already know how many fairs occur annually. With so many options, it can be hard to pick.

That’s why we’re digging into three of our favorites from the eastern United States.

Let’s get Gogh-ing!

The Appeal of Summer Art Festivals

Sweet, sweet summertime. It’s the season when anything goes, shoes are optional, and drinking beer in your lawn chair is considered self-care. This is also when the festival season reaches its peak. 

Lovely weather and fewer time constraints make summer the perfect time to stroll through rows of booths, admire the works of talented artists, and purchase a couple of new pieces to refresh your home. 

Modern art festivals date back to England in the 1700s. And they’re still going strong today. Creators enjoy the strong community ties of the festival scene and, of course, make money from their passion. For enthusiasts, there’s something special about buying a new favorite piece from an artist they met personally.

Summer art fairs offer something for everyone, and we have a few favorites to share with you.

Pro Tip: Get inspired by attending one of these 5 Great Art Festivals in April.

Walking through arts festival

#1 Tephra ICA Festival

The Tephra ICA Festival will have its 32nd annual exhibit in mid-May. Formerly known as the Northern Virginia Fine Art Festival, this is one of the most highly-rated summer shows in the US. 

Tens of thousands of visitors, including affluent art patrons from Washington, DC, flock to this event every year in search of new pieces for their collections. Paintings, ceramics, and hand-blown glass can be found around every corner, as well as jewelry, textile art, and carved wooden goods.

Artists in the ten categories are judged based on quality, consistency, originality, and display. The top contender in each group receives a $500 award. Judges are typically leaders in the visual arts world and include at least one practicing artist. 

Contemporary dance performances and live music are also displayed throughout the Reston Town Square Park festival grounds. 

Proceeds from ticket sales benefit the Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art. This nonprofit organization is devoted to supporting the mission of contemporary creators in the region. 

#2 Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show

The Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show is the premier summer festival in Philadelphia. Founded in 1928, it’s also the oldest in the US. Rittenhouse Square is one of the city’s original parks in Philly’s earliest zoning plans. 

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts students organized the first annual festival, called the “Art Flea Market.” These young creators took inspiration from the craft markets lining the streets of Paris. Paintings hung from clotheslines strewn between trees in the park.

As you take in the featured works of the festival, take a moment to consider its rich history. 

In the 1930s, several communist activists infiltrated the show, hanging propaganda throughout the square. Sometime later, Philadelphia police raided the fairgrounds to remove a nude sculpture that was too “anatomically correct” for public display. Oh, how times have changed.

Today, the event is more sophisticated. Over 20,000 visitors attend to admire the work of nearly 150 artists. Categories include oil and acrylic, watercolors, pastels, mixed media, sculpture, and printmaking. 

In a nod to the show’s founders, there’s also a designated student category for burgeoning artists to exhibit their works right in the center of the festival.

One of the best things about the Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show is that there’s no admission fee! In keeping with the students’ original vision, the organizers never plan to charge for entry.

This show is unique in that it takes place twice a year. This year’s summer art festival is in early June, while the fall exhibition takes place in mid-September. 

Pro Tip: After exploring the Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show, head to these Famous Filming Locations in Philadelphia.

#3 Summerfair Cincinnati

Another historic art festival is Summerfair Cincinnati. Now entering its fifty-fifth year, this show occurs at the Coney Island amusement park. 

The show began as a celebration of Cincinnati’s inaugural Playground in the Park event in 1968. At that time, the small exhibit featured only a few select artists. 

Today, more than 300 creators from the US and Canada exhibit their works to over 20,000 attendees. In fact, it’s been voted #3 in The 100 Best Classic & Contemporary Craft Shows in Sunshine Artist magazine.

Summerfair Cincinnati is a nonprofit organization that supports artists through exhibitions, awards, and scholarships. The institution has earned many awards for its work promoting and sustaining the arts. 

Participants in 12 juried categories like leatherwork, sculpture, and digital art for this festival will compete for nearly $20,000 in prizes. 

New to Summerfair this year is the “Gourmet Arts” section, offering unique culinary creations to visitors. Patrons can enjoy a beer from the local HighGrain Brewing Company. And the brewery has partnered with the event to feature select works on its beer cans.

This summer art festival runs in early June, and tickets can be purchased online beginning in May. Both single-day and multi-day passes are available. But be aware that tickets are cash only and purchased at the gate.

Explore the Arts This Summer

If you’re looking for a great activity to help pass the time this summer, plenty of art festivals are taking place throughout the country. You’re sure to find something that pleases the palate, no matter your preferred medium!

Sure, there’s plenty to enjoy visually, but most of these fairs also offer lots of food, live music, and other performances. 

Even better, you can be confident that your participation will support the arts, and your purchases will help skilled crafters continue doing what they love.

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