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Summerfair

By Laura James · June 1st, 2007 · The Big Picture
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  Summerfair patrons check out some of the festival wares.
CityBeat Archive

Summerfair patrons check out some of the festival wares.



This year marks the 40th anniversary of SUMMERFAIR, one of largest and most popular arts festivals in the Cincinnati area. Beginning on June 1 at 2 p.m., over 300 artists of all media will converge on Coney Island.

Forty years ago, the scene was quite different. A small group of friends sat around in Mount Adams on a warm Sunday afternoon in 1968, thinking of a special way to celebrate the opening of Playhouse in the Park that year. They came up with the idea of a small arts and crafts festival, with the motto "Do your own thing," in which local artists could sell their work.

Booths ran along the streets of Mount Adams the following two summers. "Do your own thing" switched to "Enter Aquarius" and art sat side by side with palm readers, body painters and handwriting analysts. One rather Fluxus thinking team allowed festival-goers to take turns smashing a car with a sledgehammer.

During the 1970s, Summerfair moved to the larger, more open space in Eden Park. They needed the room: People started coming to the festival from all over the country to see the wild frog hopping contests, the music performances and the amazing body art. Even Janis Joplin hit Mount Adams and gave impromptu concerts during the festival's heyday.

Thirty years ago, Summerfair moved to an even larger venue: Coney Island. Despite a brief stint (between 1979 and 1984) downtown on the Riverfront, Coney Island is where the festival has remained. Sales of art and crafts boomed to more than $350,000 in one three-day event.

Summerfair includes artists from all over the country as well as Canada. Interested shoppers and onlookers come from all over to experience one of the biggest and most renowned arts festivals in the United States. The National Association of Independent Artists has awarded the event with its Artists' Choice Award three times.

This year, for the 40th anniversary, some of that good "Do your own thing" vibe will be back. Arts and crafts booths take center stage. Expect to find handmade jewelry, metal works, sculpture, photography, painting, drawing, glass art, fiber arts and ceramics. Plenty of performance art will be there to surprise and delight you: Mimes, jugglers and magicians will wander through the booths.

But Summerfair is more than just a good time and a place to pick up some artwork. It is also a year-round nonprofit organization that offers more individual artists' grants than any other foundation in the Cincinnati area. It honors college art students with an annual exhibition, which last year had almost 6,000 visitors. Summerfair gives about four high school scholarships a year to students in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana who want to take art classes beyond their own school's curriculum.

High school students are also invited to compete in the Regional Scholastic Art completion, which sends several budding artists to New York City to compete for a national competition. Summerfair is the organization that funds these students' aspirations.

Community art programs also play a major role in Summerfair's 'off-season.' Last year, for example, the organization partnered with Price Hill WILL! "to create an exhibition of photographs exploring the concept of community. The exhibition included images by Price Hill resident and professional photographer Brad Austin Smith, as well as those by students from Price Hill's five high schools," says Summerfair's public relations director Kimberly Taney.

According to Taney, "the effectiveness of Summerfair Cincinnati activities has earned the organization regional and national recognition including Greater Cincinnati Convention & Visitors Bureau Outstanding Service Award, Southwestern Ohio Art Education Award for Distinguished Organization, American Marketing Association Community Impact Award and the Post-Corbett Award of Excellence."

The fair's history is our city's history. Beginning during the Vietnam War, aiming to celebrate peace, freedom and art, Summerfair has been through as much in the past 40 years as Cincinnatians have. Now, during our new military conflict, it seems a most appropriate time to celebrate what the creators of Summerfair achieved in 1968.



CONTACT LAURA JAMES: ljames(at)
  Summerfair patrons check out some of the festival wares.
CityBeat Archive

Summerfair patrons check out some of the festival wares.



This year marks the 40th anniversary of SUMMERFAIR, one of largest and most popular arts festivals in the Cincinnati area. Beginning on June 1 at 2 p.m., over 300 artists of all media will converge on Coney Island.

Forty years ago, the scene was quite different. A small group of friends sat around in Mount Adams on a warm Sunday afternoon in 1968, thinking of a special way to celebrate the opening of Playhouse in the Park that year. They came up with the idea of a small arts and crafts festival, with the motto "Do your own thing," in which local artists could sell their work.

Booths ran along the streets of Mount Adams the following two summers. "Do your own thing" switched to "Enter Aquarius" and art sat side by side with palm readers, body painters and handwriting analysts. One rather Fluxus thinking team allowed festival-goers to take turns smashing a car with a sledgehammer.

During the 1970s, Summerfair moved to the larger, more open space in Eden Park. They needed the room: People started coming to the festival from all over the country to see the wild frog hopping contests, the music performances and the amazing body art. Even Janis Joplin hit Mount Adams and gave impromptu concerts during the festival's heyday.

Thirty years ago, Summerfair moved to an even larger venue: Coney Island. Despite a brief stint (between 1979 and 1984) downtown on the Riverfront, Coney Island is where the festival has remained. Sales of art and crafts boomed to more than $350,000 in one three-day event.

Summerfair includes artists from all over the country as well as Canada. Interested shoppers and onlookers come from all over to experience one of the biggest and most renowned arts festivals in the United States. The National Association of Independent Artists has awarded the event with its Artists' Choice Award three times.

This year, for the 40th anniversary, some of that good "Do your own thing" vibe will be back. Arts and crafts booths take center stage. Expect to find handmade jewelry, metal works, sculpture, photography, painting, drawing, glass art, fiber arts and ceramics. Plenty of performance art will be there to surprise and delight you: Mimes, jugglers and magicians will wander through the booths.

But Summerfair is more than just a good time and a place to pick up some artwork. It is also a year-round nonprofit organization that offers more individual artists' grants than any other foundation in the Cincinnati area. It honors college art students with an annual exhibition, which last year had almost 6,000 visitors. Summerfair gives about four high school scholarships a year to students in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana who want to take art classes beyond their own school's curriculum. High school students are also invited to compete in the Regional Scholastic Art completion, which sends several budding artists to New York City to compete for a national competition. Summerfair is the organization that funds these students' aspirations.

Community art programs also play a major role in Summerfair's 'off-season.' Last year, for example, the organization partnered with Price Hill WILL! "to create an exhibition of photographs exploring the concept of community. The exhibition included images by Price Hill resident and professional photographer Brad Austin Smith, as well as those by students from Price Hill's five high schools," says Summerfair's public relations director Kimberly Taney.

According to Taney, "the effectiveness of Summerfair Cincinnati activities has earned the organization regional and national recognition including Greater Cincinnati Convention & Visitors Bureau Outstanding Service Award, Southwestern Ohio Art Education Award for Distinguished Organization, American Marketing Association Community Impact Award and the Post-Corbett Award of Excellence."

The fair's history is our city's history. Beginning during the Vietnam War, aiming to celebrate peace, freedom and art, Summerfair has been through as much in the past 40 years as Cincinnatians have. Now, during our new military conflict, it seems a most appropriate time to celebrate what the creators of Summerfair achieved in 1968.



CONTACT LAURA JAMES: ljames(at)citybeat.com
 
 
 
 

 

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