By Jacqueline Runice
Mystic monk and writer Thomas Merton once said, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” There aren’t many other experiences on earth that can do that to a body, so why not get immersed in a spiritual, emotional or intellectual adventure through an art festival? Although practically every little burg has a summer art fair where locals display their watercolors or photographs, great art festivals offer the transformative, mind-bending scene worth the trip.
Art Basel Miami Beach has emerged as the “see and be seen” art festival in the country, so there’s a school of thought that the December gathering may have peaked in edginess and vision. Nope. Plus, it’s Miami Beach in December rife with galleries, parties, and exhibitions and it serves as the only North American show of the international festival. Art Basel Miami Beach attracts so many because it combines elite and pop culture, creating legit experiences for both experts and the inexperienced. More than 4,000 artists are featured in media including paintings, sculptures, installations, photography, film, video, and digital art. You also get art representing diverse cultures such as Norwegian photography, Egyptian sculptures, civil rights and African American paintings, and Italian pearl-covered canvases. Attendance increases yearly (83,000 people attended in 2018) and the festival makes the nightly news with events such as Picasso’s Tete de Femme selling for $17 million during the first few hours of the 2018 show. Plan your visit Dec. 5-8, 2019.
The wildly popular Exposition of Sculpture Objects & Functional Art (SOFA) takes place in Navy Pier’s Festival Hall every autumn. The gallery-presented festival crosses the boundaries of decorative, fine art and design and is comparable to Art Basel. About 80 galleries from across the globe offer intriguing pieces that provoke and entertain as well as one-of-a-kind masterworks. SOFA often presents special exhibits by renowned museums, universities and arts organizations, surveys emerging trends in the art world, and is known for an extensive lecture and film series all included in admission price.
Rust Belt cities are some of the most exciting in terms of art at this edge of the 21st century, and Columbus is a real winner. One of the largest arts festivals in the country, the Columbus Arts Festival counts more than 250 exhibiting artists representing 16 different media from up to 40 states and four countries. The five stages of entertainment and an enormous hands-on activity area for kids and families ads to the glee. The festival takes place on the vibrant downtown Columbus riverfront, spanning two bridges and acres of green space. Last year, the headliners included G. Love and Special Sauce and Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, both free concerts for the community. We are working this year on a really fun collaboration with a famous musician and our world-renowned BalletMet.
Scottsdale, Arizona’s free public art festival, held every November, attracts hundreds of thousands of people for an event that, in 2018, connected art, light and water with a message of sustainability. The scale and grandeur rival those of much larger cities (the Arizona city has around 250,000 residents) because Scottsdale Public Arts’ program has been funded by city ordinances requiring 1% of both public and private capital development to be put back into a fund for public art. During Canal Convergence the waterfront along the historic Arizona Canal in Old Town Scottsdale metamorphoses with 10 large-scale public art installations from artists around the world, as well as community programming including performances, tours, workshops, artist talks, bike rides, and activities for families. Featured artists in prior years include Choi + Shine Architects (most known for their floating, crocheted sea urchins installed in Marina Bay in Singapore in 2017) as well as Poetic Kinetics from Los Angeles.