The Edina Art Fair (EAF) first hit the sidewalks of 50th Street in 1966. To celebrate the art fair’s 50th anniversary, organizers have pulled together a lineup that will feature new elements along with tried-and-true favorites.
The three-day event is set for 10 a.m.-7 p.m. June 3-4 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. June 5, and will feature nearly 300 artists from the United States and Canada, 16 food vendors (14 are new to the fair), including food trucks and two beer gardens (one with craft beer). Admission is free.
“The art fair will close at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, but the Edina 5-0 lot (on 49½ Street) with the craft beer garden, music and food will remain open until 10 p.m.,” Rachel Thelemann, executive director of the 50th and France Business Association, says. “We will also be featuring some local headliner bands.” Other music acts will include adult- and family-focused entertainment. Youth artists’ booths will be featured, and a community art project, led by a local artist, will round out the special events. For the younger set, the fair will feature the Kids’ Zone, with art projects for children, a bouncy house and an entertainment venue.
For those interested in anniversary memorabilia, Thelemann says commemorative T-shirts and posters will be available, and a collection of EAF posters from the last 50 years and other archived items will be on hand to give the public a peek into how the art show has evolved over the years. Organized by the 50th and France Business Association, the first incarnation of the EAF was a book and craft fair that served as a fundraiser and a way to draw foot traffic to the area.
The art fair has grown up (it’s the first of the season and the second-largest art show in the state) and out. Sidewalk booths have tumbled out onto 50th Street and France Avenue with those two main streets closed to traffic to make room for artists’ tents and throngs of patrons. “It has become a way to celebrate downtown Edina and put Edina on the map in a different way,” Thelemann says. “We have 200,000 visitors to the district now because of the art fair. We host several hundred out-of-state artists and vendors. We also work a lot with our local talent, and in the last five years, we have become one of the top 50 art festivals in the nation, with a ranking of 36 this past year.”
Many artists have remained committed to the art show over the years. “When I first showed at the Edina Art Fair, there were considerable numbers of exhibitors,” says artist Michael Bond, who is in his 30th year at the fair and specializes in printmaking. During the fair’s early years, Bond says very few exhibitors were full-time artists. “This is no longer the case, and artists now attend from all over the U.S. as the prestige of show has risen. This, in turn, has attracted a more discerning crowd of fairgoers. The buying public seems to understand the value of fine art and fine craft more now than back in the day.” Also, the people attending the fair come from farther away. It is viewed as a regional destination event now.
“Edina is a wonderful show,” says Andrew Shea, who has exhibited at the fair for about 25 years. As a glass blower who creates sculpture, sculptural perfume bottles, glass fish and vases, Shea has exhibited his art throughout the country, but he has an affinity for the EAF. “I like it because it’s in my hometown. I see people whom I’ve known my whole life. I get to show people who have known me what I do. I think that’s cool. Edina is a good marketplace, and it attracts a good-quality crowd and a good-quality exhibitor.”
Marti Johnson, jewelry designer, has been with the EAF for more than 20 years. “I’m very grateful to have participated for as long as I have,” the Edina resident says of the juried show. “The work has become better and better,” she adds. “It’s become more of a fine art show.” Since it’s the first show of the season, Johnson says patrons are eager to see what artists have created over the long, winter months. “The inventory is fresh, and they get the first pick of that,” she says. The timing of the EAF also serves as inspiration for artists. “It’s a high motivator because you know it’s the first event of the season,” Johnson says. “You begin to get validation [for the new work]. People are very kind and supportive of the artists. They value what you do, want to know your inspiration, and they are interested in the techniques you use. It’s part of our [Midwestern] culture. They want to know the story.”
What‘s Happening at the Edina Art Fair
Friday night, June 3
Meet the Artists
Concert by The Rockin’ Hollywoods
Saturday night, June 4
Meet the Brewer
Concert by Tim Patrick and his Blue-Eyed Band