It’s not easy for an artist to get into the Uptown Art Fair. Each year the fair receives at least 700 applications and accepts 350 of them.
A five-member jury spends a winter weekend holed up at a hotel, evaluating a spread of each artist’s work on six-foot screens.
“It’s a very competitive industry. Those who are not in the industry do not realize that,” said artist Marjolyn van der Hart, a resident of Toronto.
van der Hart is returning to the Uptown Art Fair after winning Best of Show last year in 2-D mixed media. She said fairs provide an important business outlet for the arts community.
“This is really the last dance against mass-reproduction,” she said.
Artist sales at the fair totaled $1.2 million last year, according to Maude Lovelle, executive director of the Uptown Association.
“For most of them, doing art festivals is 80 percent of their bread and butter,” she said.
“In the winter they produce their work, and in the summer they travel to art shows,” said Terrell Brown, a longtime member of the art fair planning committee.
Volunteers said a new mix of artists makes the fair feel fresh every year.
“There is always something weird that happens,” Brown said.
One year the staff’s golf cart was stolen at night. Police discovered the golf cart on Portland Avenue, and it was towed to the impound lot.
Now in its 52nd year, Brown said the fair has changed quite a bit over the years. The number of artists has been reduced since the 1990s, down from a peak of at least 500 artists. As a result, patrons noticed an increase in the quality of the art, as well as an increase in price.
Another big change for the fair came when it stopped soliciting a title sponsor.
“Now we have a wide array of sponsors, and I think we’re more in tune with the immediate business community in Uptown,” said Joe Ott, another longtime planning committee member.
This year nearly 80 local shops decorated more than 150 paint cans to showcase their businesses and promote the fair. A launch party featuring the cans took place in July at the new Bottle and Bottega studio in Uptown.
“We didn’t realize we could fit more art in our studio,” said owner Christy Myers. “We were sad to see the art go.”
Myers and other launch party guests created a mural with this year’s commemorative artist, Brian Delozier of Little Falls, Minn. In 2002, Delozier was paralyzed in a skiing accident at age 16. He regained the ability to walk through therapy, but never recovered the full use of his hands. An artist friend encouraged him to draw, and when Delozier explained that he couldn’t even hold a paintbrush, the artist suggested that he pick up a marker and make
dots. The suggestion launched his new vocation and signature pointillism style.
Delozier created a commemorative print called “Wings Over Uptown” for this year’s art fair featuring birds of prey soaring over Uptown, symbolizing the urban area’s connection to nature.
Myers said Delozier spent five hours on mural dot work prior to the launch party collaboration.
“He said it’s the biggest piece he’s ever worked on,” Myers said. “He was so great to work with.”
The mural will be auctioned off at the fair, and an online auction for the paint cans is underway thru Aug. 12 at uptownartfair.com/canvasuptown.
For those who find themselves shuffling through the fair on a hot, crowded day (it typically draws 375,000 people), Ott has some advice.
“The thing I always tell people about the art fair is take the time to talk to artists,” Ott said. “Get the story behind the piece of art. That’s something you don’t get if you buy retail or online. If you never go into a booth, you’re missing a lot.”
Barbara Hager served as a juror for this year’s art fair, and she sold her own pottery at the fair 15 years ago. She said artists pore over their work — the Higher Education Policy Institute says art students spend more hours on course-related work than law students, and have a similar hourly workload to engineering students.
“By the time you get to the art fair, you’ve done massive amounts of work,” Hager said.
After spending so much time alone in a studio, Hager found it exhilarating to discuss her pieces with customers. She thought it was fun to sit alongside the same artists at fairs across the country, and she mourned the lifestyle when she started teaching at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.
At the Uptown Art Fair, artists are required to be present at the booth. The rule is meant to ensure the art isn’t mass-produced at a factory with sales outsourced to other staff.
Hager said meeting an artist is vital for buyers — she treasures coffee cups she’s purchased from other national artists.
“You feel like you’re having coffee with them,” she said. “You are buying a piece of that person.”
Uptown Art Fair
Friday, Aug. 7, noon-8 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 8, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 9, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Lake & Hennepin and The Mall
Download a free ride pass between the Loring Park, Powderhorn and Uptown Art Fairs at metrotransit.org/ArtPass
Complimentary bike valet parking on The Mall at Humboldt Avenue
Beer garden and stage:
Summit beer garden at Salsa a La Salsa, 2841 Hennepin Ave.
Friday: Uptown Swing, 3 p.m./Blutopians, 4+5 p.m./ Demolition Means Progress, 6 p.m./Dred I Dread, 7 p.m.
Saturday: Curio Dance, 2 p.m./Matt Hannah, 3 p.m./The Casey Band, 4 p.m./Sisters of Sahara, 5 p.m./Jackson and the Roosters, 6 p.m./Blue Cities, 7 p.m.
Sunday: The Tune Ups, 1 p.m./Tim Houlihan, 2 p.m./TC Swing and 7 Cats Band, 3+4 p.m.
Family Imagination Station:
Located at the top of The Mall between the Library and Metro Transit Bus Hub
Watch potter’s wheel demos and make clay art with the Northern Clay Center
Culinary Arts Competition:
In front of Kitchen Window on Hennepin between Lake and 31st
Friday at 2, 4 and 6 p.m.; Saturday at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m.; Sunday semi-finals at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., finals at 3 p.m.
Teams of one chef and one artist are given ingredients and 30 minutes to make a dish/piece of art
Food trucks are located at the bottom of The Mall by Calhoun Parkway
New food this year includes mini donuts from Chef Shack; gyros from Fifillah; lobster tacos from Jake’s Street Grill; frozen yogurt from Fro Yo Soul; buttermilk chicken sandwiches from Lake & Irving; The Cookie Cups; Italian beef from Top Dog; walleye fillets from Tommy Veez Foods; bratwurst from Black Forest Inn; burritos from Brava on Wheels; sliders from Jax Café; bbq dawgs from Whole Soul; turkey legs from R Four Meats; Mama Donato’s Pizza