Official festival poster by Shelby Keefe
(I'm a fan. I think it's great she got to do the poster!)
It rained on Friday. It had to, as everyone I spoke with agreed. It's the Lakefront Festival of Arts in Milwaukee; it always rains! But yesterday made up for it and I'm glad I had the chance to go then - a perfect day: sunny, not too hot, not too humid, nice breeze to make the kites flutter and push some air through the single enormous tent that houses nearly all of the 181 artists. Not all because, for a change, a few booths were set up inside the museum's glorious Windhover Hall, which to me seemed a little like putting the money changers in the temple. (But that's not quite a fair comparison, since it is art they are selling.)
Today is the last chance to go (10 am to 5 pm) and if it's anywhere near as nice as yesterday, it'll be a good time to see what's happening in the art fair world.
What's happening, as far as I can tell, is very much the same as what I saw at ArtChicago in May - there are a lot of good artists out there trying to make a living. The quality and craftsmanship are high. The variety is such that there should be something to appeal to most everyone's taste - and budget. That's a selling point for the show. The catalogue says "There's a price point for everyone to bring original art into your home." I'm all for that!
As in Chicago, the only thing missing is the kind of edgy art that is challenging as well as appealing. If the goal is to get people to put original art in their homes, that is to be expected. While you're at the fair, though, I recommend taking a break from all the beautiful things in the booths and step inside the museum. Immediately to the left, down the side corridor, is the display of AIDS quilts. Today is the last day to see these moving tributes designed by important fashion designers who have been vocal in the fight to prevent the human tragedy of AIDS. It's especially moving to stand before these huge quilts and imagine forty thousand of them, the largest community folk art project in the world. Fortunately, the museum - with a different mission than the fair - provides the thoughtful dose of reality that art can project so powerfully.
After that, go back outside and enjoy the music, the kites, and the lovely art. You may even decide to take something home for your wall.
For more info about the fair and the quilts go to Milwaukee Art Museum.