Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer across America. An added bonus, area residents and visitors flock to the annual Barrington Art Festival Barrington, which takes place on May 25 and 26 this year.
The two-day outdoor event showcases artists, musicians, and local shops and eateries that come together to celebrate summer and the arts with community members.
Situated along Cook and Station streets, the free-admission festival features original artwork of more than 120 juried artists from around the country in a variety of mediums including ceramics, fiber, glass, jewelry, painting, photography, sculpture, and more. In addition to the incredible artwork, attendees enjoy live music, kid-friendly activities, and food and drink for purchase.
To commemorate this year’s anniversary, we sat down with show producer Amy Amdur of Amdur Productions to find out what makes our very own art festival noteworthy. Mark your calendars.
What motivated you to start the Barrington Art Festival and what makes it special?
At the time, Peg Blanchard, who retired very recently, was working with the Village of Barrington. We were acquainted through The Port Clinton Square Art Festival when she was in Highland Park. Peg had a vision for an art festival here, and when I came out to Barrington and saw its charming downtown with interesting stores and cafes, I could see it had everything we were looking for as far as infrastructure for an art festival.
We wanted to create an event for the local community and draw people to the downtown. It’s become a real showcase in Barrington, and it is special because it’s one of the first festivals of the season. We’ve held it in everything from freezing cold, to rain, to hotter than all get out. The community is so loyal; they come and enjoy.
How has this show evolved over the years?
Everyone has been super excited since we started the Barrington show. Over the ten years, we’ve tried a few different layouts along Cook and Station streets. At times, we used part of Lake and experimented with additional add-on events. We like to keep it fresh so the public always has a new experience when they come. Also, we keep it family-friendly and make it a family holiday weekend, running it on Saturday and Sunday. Then there is the Village parade on Monday, which rounds out the whole weekend.
Why do you feel it is so important to continue putting on art shows?
The world has changed so much; people are glued to their screens so much of the time. It’s just as important now to create events for people to experience art firsthand, to give artists to opportunity to show their work, and for people to meet the artists and find out about their processes. We are dedicated to continuing our shows and adding new ones.
What elements and activities can spectators expect this year?
We’ll have a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday morning with the mayor, and we are weaving the anniversary into the graphics and the poster art selected this year.
At the multi-sensorial show, we always want people to experience art and the people who made it, to understand what the artist was thinking and what inspired them. We’ll have different artists demonstrating their process in their booths. We’ll also offer special stage talks such as framing art tips and tricks and finding the right art for your home and office.
We always offer the live music stage throughout Saturday and Sunday. Artist Michael Thiele is coming in from Arizona. He makes tone drums, art in the form of musical instruments that he’ll be playing throughout the festival. Cirrus Falcon will also perform.
We want to make sure kids are happy during the fair, and we want it to be educational and interactive. There will be an art fair scavenger hunt, which will be challenging but achievable, such as having children look for a painting of a sunset or a ring of gold; we will also have a youth art area.
Also new this year is that a number of the stores and shops in Barrington will be featuring pieces of art from some of the artists in the weeks leading up to the show. And, local food and drink vendors include McGonigal’s Pub beer garden, Lisa’s Italian Ice, Drift coffee and food, El Campeon’s non-alcoholic Pina Coladas, and Taquizas el Poblanito’s Mexican fare.
What is the jury process for selecting artists?
Artists have to apply when the snow is still on the ground, right after the New Year. We do a national call for artists. Each applicant submits four images of their art along with a presentation. The jurors are comprised of art professionals, artists, teachers, and collectors who review the work. This festival is limited in size to about 120 artists, and we fill it with the top artists. Award winners from the previous year are automatically included because they set the bar for the following year. And, we always save space for Barrington Cultural Arts Center to display local artists who are part of their group.
Tells us about some of the noteworthy artists who will be attending this year’s show.
As I look over the list, I see artists from Illinois and the Midwest, and from all over the United States, from the east and west coasts to southern and western states.
We have an amazing group of artists coming in, including many of people’s favorites plus new artists participating in the show for the first time.
Visitors will see a real range of art, from nationally renowned painters such as Glenna Atkins from Kentucky who uses a lot of layers of paint to create beautiful abstract paintings, to artists who create wearable art, like Jennifer Akese-Burney. Salem Barker is a great emerging artist from Illinois, who creates hand-carved wood art mixing woods and resins.
James Cole from Plainfield will be returning and showing his newer photo boxes, where he cuts apart photos and mixes the pieces up, putting them back together in an interesting way.
We’re also seeing a trend in up-cycled art. Bicycle enthusiasts will love Annette Fiscelli’s work made from deconstructed bicycle parts. John Guertin from Grand Rapids up-cycles old barn wood to create beautiful birdhouses.
Multi-cultural artists, such as Mina Hsing, will showcase her art of brush painting. Peter Rujuwa will show his African stone sculptures.
Eugene Perry is nationally ranked artist from Philadelphia who creates huge sculptures, for those who may have a large high-ceiling area. We also have wonderful jewelers working in gold and silver, like Jonathan Rutledge, who uses tiny granules of gold to create gorgeous pieces.
Barrington artists include April Graves, Al Buschauer, Beata Krupa, and Michael Lulik.
What else do you want people to know about the Barrington Art Festival?
We are multi-generational and wheel friendly. I encourage people to make a day of it, to walk around the whole show, then circle back and talk to some of the artists. Most are happy to create a commissioned piece for a particular size to fill that empty wall. We all have areas in our homes, like funny shaped walls. I advise people to take a picture of the space, and measure, before they go to the show. Or, to think about how a new piece of art can give a room a makeover with something you can enjoy every day.
I want to point out that art makes a great gift, for someone moving into a new house, or any special occasion. We now offer art gift certificates, which allow recipients can pick out a piece for themselves. Also, I want people to know that we offer art at all different price levels at the festival, from $20 to $200 to $20,000. It’s a very buyable show.
The Barrington Art Festival takes place on May 25 and 26, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days; admission is free. For more information, visit amdurproductions.com.
AMDUR’ S HOT TIPS
MAKING THE MOST OF THE SHOW:
»»Put on sunscreen before leaving for the show.
»»Wear comfortable shoes.
»»Always wear a hat at the show; a visor helps you to better view the art.
»»Drink plenty of water; it keeps you fresher to better appreciate the art.
»»Take breaks when you need to; get a bite to eat and a beverage, and then circle back to some of the booths.
»»Talk to the artists.
ENJOYING THE SHOW WITH CHILDREN:
»»Put sunscreen and hats on children.
»»Make it fun; come earlier or later in the day when it’s a little less crowded.
»»Participate in the youth activities so the children can feel involved.
»»Help children learn to be active lookers. You can play the old “car” game, only at the show; for example, ask the kids to look for art that has trees or dogs in it, or do a color search. It helps children learn how to look at art, which will carry over to the rest of their lives.