SH Art Fair comes a long way from its humble beginnings

Photo courtesy of South Haven Center for the ArtsArtist Sheri Dion of Grand Rapids is shown demonstrating her unusual technique of “fire painting” at Stanley Johnston Park (then Oakland Park) at the 10th Annual South Haven Art Fair in 1968. Art Fair, now in its 61st year, celebrates a long tradition of art in South Haven.

SOUTH HAVEN — This year marks the 150th anniversary of South Haven and the 61st anniversary of the South Haven Art Fair.

This year’s fair will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in Stanley Johnston Park, corner of Dyckman Avenue and Park Street.

The South Haven Art League held the first fine arts fair in 1958 at Stanley Johnston Park, then called Oakland Park. Known as the “Clothesline Exhibit,” 50 Michigan artists exhibited more than 300 paintings on clotheslines and easels that year. In the last six decades, the art fair has expanded to a two-day juried event and has evolved to include more than 120 artists and thousands of works of art.

“Art Fair is a wonderful part of the busy summer season in South Haven and we look forward to visitors coming out to see the work,” said Kerry Hagy, South Haven Center for the Arts executive director.

In the last 61 years the event has expanded to include local artists, as well as artists from Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and a handful of other states, but in 2019 the fair is moving back to its roots.

“This year we are proud to present the work of over 50 Michigan artists, which constitutes over half the work in the fair,” Hagy said.

This year’s fair features unique fine and functional artwork created by more than 100 talented artists working in acrylic, oil, watercolor, pastel, drawing, sculpture, photography, metal, glass, wood, clay and wearable art. The art center awards a $500 prize for Best in Show. The second-place winner is awarded $250 and third place receives $100.

This year’s judges are sculptor Geoffrey Novelli, and watercolorist, mixed-media painter and muralist Anne Farley-Gaines.

Novelli is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and composes works in marble, limestone, cast iron, sandstone, copper, glass and rubber. Gaines grew up in South Haven and now lives and works in Chicago. She creates multi-media paintings, and large-scale murals consisting of paint, mosaic and ceramic that adorn many public spaces across the United States.

New to the art fair this year will be a family art tent featuring arts and crafts. Guests can also enjoy a variety of food, including wood-fired pizza, BBQ, Italian ice, coffee drinks, smoothies, waffles on a stick and more. The Casco Band will play traditional Independence Day music at 2 p.m., Saturday.

The art center has created two additional events this year to celebrate the long-standing tradition of arts in a community that has thrived since 1869 – “Marian Anderson & Dorris Akers: What’s Next?” and an outdoor exhibition entitled “Inside|Out.”

What’s Next?, on display at the art center through July 6, showcases the artwork of two artists who have been creating and exhibiting their work in South Haven since 1977 and have remained friends for 42 years.

“Inside|Out” is on view in public spaces throughout South Haven until November. The exhibit features 14 high-quality reproductions of 19th and 20th century paintings from the permanent collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts, including “Violinist and Young Woman” by French artist Edgar Degas, which is displayed in Stanley Johnston Park. Maps will be available at the SHCA welcome booth during the art fair.

The South Haven Trolley, sponsored by the South Haven Visitor’s Bureau, will run every half hour from the South Haven High School parking lot into town with stops in between. The shuttle service is available from 7 a.m. to midnight Saturday, and from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.