Last week I attended junk maven Ki Nissauer’s Spring Junk Bonanza. It’s a twice-yearly pilgrimage for lovers of all things vintage, fans of architectural salvage, artists, designers and those who love the thrill of the find. Thankfully, it was indoors, as it was a rainy day. But I whiled away the hours marveling at three auditoriums full of fantastic displays, created by talented visual artists with a flair for grand statements.
Artists like Vanessa “Kiki” Johanning brought much-needed color and warmth to the Early Bird line, snaked around the front of Canterbury Park at 7:30 a.m. Kiki’s rowdy entourage, with their laughter and cheers made everyone smile. At MN events the people-watching is paired with a healthy dose of Minnesota nice. Strangers become friends.
I found a few pieces of Hull Magnolia pottery and craft supplies I couldn’t leave without, but mainly I was at the Bonanza for the mood boost, the dopamine rush I get from seeing makers, junkers and artists doing their thing.
By the time I left JB, my anticipation for the beginning of art fair season had reached a fever pitch. Because if it’s a summer weekend in the Twin Cities, there are two things you can be sure of, massive road construction and art fairs.
I like to think of art fairs as the museum’s rebellious kid sister, the wild child with the wandering soul. And in Minnesota, we have almost as many outdoor celebrations of art and artists as we have lakes. Better still, most of these festivals are held right beside some of our most scenic bodies of water.
It only seems right that art should be displayed outdoors in the elements, as so much artwork draws inspiration from, or evokes nature; human, but also earth, the heavens, water, flora and fauna, animal. In fact, many Minnesota animals are huge art fans. Literally.
We show up regardless of the mercurial weather. But a hot, sunny day beside the Mississippi, during the Stone Arch Bridge Festival will take your breath away. A magnificent canopy of trees, grassy knolls and park benches provide cool spots to escape the heat and take it all in: art, people, food, classic cars, architecture and nature.
Meandering the posh boulevard running along Lake Minnetonka’s Wayzata Bay during the Wayzata Art Experience and happening upon a whimsical pair of bronze Humpty Dumpties, toasting with martinis, is the type of whimsical surprise that makes it a can’t miss event.
The Uptown Art Fair is the crown jewel of Minnesota’s summer line-up.
Located only blocks from three of the city’s most popular and picturesque escapes, Lake of the Isles, Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun, the Uptown Art Fair features over 350 artists from around the world, and has been honored with over 140 Pinnacle Awards by the International Festivals and Events Association.
The Uptown Theater takes its name from the funky urban epicenter of Minneapolis called Uptown, a neighborhood that showcases the diversity of people, food and culture in the Twin Cities.
Food trucks pepper the streets around Hennepin & Lake. The delicious aromas of cheese curds, bbq and paella fill the air. Icy cold beverages abound. Ahhhh, this is the life.
If Coachella had a midwestern art fair cousin, the Uptown Art Fair would be it. Live music, beer gardens and the eclectic Uptown vibe contribute to a party atmosphere. The right brain is fully engaged.
For me, the art fair versus gallery experience is transcendent. Don’t get me wrong, I love museums. But when was the last time you went to a museum and actually got to talk to the artist whose work stands right before you, to ask questions about the why and the how of it? When I see artwork that intrigues me or speaks to me, I usually find that I share some commonality with its artist, whether it’s experience, place or feeling or sense of humor. What a treat to be able to meet all of these colorful, passionate human beings with the courage to pursue their vision and embrace their innate talents.
“Adrift with just a tutu and her everyday tiara”
Kina Crow is one of my favorite art fair discoveries. While Kina will be traveling only as far west from her home in Pennsylvania as the St. Louis Art Fair in 2017, she was an Uptown Art Fair regular for many years. In fact her whimsical clay and paint dioramas were awarded Best in Show, Mixed Media in 2008 and 2009.
The first time I saw Kina Crow’s cheeky little humans made of clay, pondering the great mysteries of life, I laughed out loud. Okay, I probably snorted, unabashedly, as I am known to do when something really tickles me.
Kina’s artwork reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from author Elizabeth Gilbert, “Don’t ever be ashamed of loving all the strange things that make your weird little heart happy.” Kina’s little people with their angsty adorableness (I know it’s not a word, but it should be) ARE the strange little things! She celebrates that lingering bit of awkward adolescent in all of us, who stumble about in this big old world trying to make sense of it all, and she does it with humor, and the aforementioned quirky adorableness. Kina’s new book, I Wonder, is a work of art itself.
So while art fairs may be a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy a gorgeous summer day, surrounded by interesting people, listen to music, taste delicious food and pet all the dogs, what really makes it amazing is finding art and artists you will fall in love with and enjoy for the rest of your life.
**** Main Image and all images of Kina Crow artwork are copyright-protected and used with permission from the artist.****