Eat your art out

The Uptown Art Fair will feature more than 300 artists, live music, food and a bike valet.

The Uptown Art Fair attracts over 300,000 attendees each year.

photo courtesy uptown art fair

The Uptown Art Fair attracts over 300,000 attendees each year.

Raghav Mehta

Uptown Art Fair When: August 6-8 Where: Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue, âÄúThe MallâÄù area, 1406 West Lake St. Cost: Free For nearly half a century, MinneapolisâÄô Uptown Art Fair has united thousands of artists and attendees from all around the world. Located at the intersection of Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue, the Uptown Art Fair is MinnesotaâÄôs second largest event of the year (rivaled only by the State Fair) and aims to serve artists of all stripes by providing them with a place to display their work before an audience of more than 300,000. This year promises no shortage in creativity, with work from more than 300 artists of 12 different mediums, live music, a bike corral service and a variety of food vendors. âÄúIt highlights the community âĦ People come from all over the country and quite honestly some from all over the world,âÄù said Maude Lovelle , executive director of the Uptown Association. Artists are required to submit four samples as well as one image that represents the body of their work âÄî usually in the form of a photo of their boothâÄôs setup. Applications are accepted from November to February and are reviewed by an expert panel of three juries. âÄúWe started with a little over 1,100 applicants and narrowed it down to 300,âÄù Lovelle said. âÄúTo be juried into our show is quite prestigious. Just because youâÄôve been in once doesnâÄôt mean you get an automatic buy-in. ItâÄôs brand new every year.âÄù Twin-Cities oil painter Mike Welton , who sat on this yearâÄôs expert panel, said the fair appeals to a wide variety of art enthusiasts. Welton has been an active oil painter for 14 years. âÄúItâÄôs one of the best attended art fairs in the country, so you reach a lot of people who are high-end buyers, medium-range buyers and just art lovers,âÄù Welton said. Chicago-based photographer Xavier Nuez has been attending the fair for three years and said he admires the eventâÄôs communal atmosphere. âÄúSometimes when an event is a private for-profit event, it feels small, whereas in the Uptown show, it really feels like the whole community is behind it,âÄù Nuez said. But glass sculpture artist and long-time contributor Michael Tonder doesnâÄôt share the same kind of enthusiasm as Nuez. While Tonder doesnâÄôt downplay the opportunity the fair offers artists, he expressed concern over the growing commercialization of the fair and how organizers have diverted more attention towards entertainment and food. âÄúI donâÄôt want to disparage the idea of commercialization, because the sales are the oil that keeps the machine going,âÄù Tonder said. âÄúBut I do think that the purpose for getting everyone together has always been the art and I think the focus of the management is to make money, which is an important thing for them. But IâÄôm feeling itâÄôs at the expense of the quality of the art.âÄù Tonder explained that the increasingly dense crowds and lack of advertising that goes towards the art ultimately hurts artistsâÄô sales and deters more serious art buyers from returning to the fair. Despite criticsâÄô gripes, the Uptown Art Fair is still running strong and is here to stay. While the event is free and open to the public, the fair is UptownâÄôs primary fundraising event, with a portion of the proceeds going towards improving the commercial and residential sectors through initiatives that have included beautification projects and security improvement.