APPLETON — Appleton’s annual Art at the Park returns Saturday for a weekend of arts, crafts, music, food vendors and family-friendly fun.
This year marks the 62nd annual Art at the Park. The event began in 1960 with just 15 local artists and around 200 participants, according to the Trout Museum of Art website. That same year, the Appleton Arts Guild — which later became the Trout Museum of Art — was formed. Now nearly 170 artists are presenting their work at the event, hosted by the Trout Museum, and attended by thousands of guests.
Art at the Park went from a one-day festival to a two-day event in 2021. This year’s festival will be held Saturdays from 9am to 6pm and Sundays from 9am to 4pm at City Park at 500 E. Franklin St. Admission and parking are free.
This year’s Art at the Park is also a bittersweet celebration: it’s the first festival since the death of one of its founders, Phil Sealy.
A longtime Appleton resident, Sealy returned for years to sell his watercolors at Art at the Park. Sealy was a founding member of the Appleton Artists Guild in 1960 and served on the board of directors of the Trout Museum of Art until the pandemic hit, said museum director Christina Turner. In 2018, Sealy was honored with the first-ever Fox Cities Arts and Culture Award. He died in December 2021.
“His wife died within a week of him. They were both in their 90s. And he continued to paint until the day he died,” Turner said.
This year Art at the Park will have a booth on the corner of Drew Street and Franklin Street – the same location Sealy would always have its booth – in memory of the founder. Attendees can chat with Sealy’s family and purchase some of Sealy’s paintings, with proceeds going to the Sealy Family Trust, which is donated to various organizations, Turner said.
At this year’s festival, 166 professional artists will set up tents selling various types of artwork, from paintings to jewelry, ceramics, woodwork and more. Artists apply for a booth and are accepted by a panel of three judges, who accept artists based on quality and a balance of media, Turner said. In addition, a Young Artist Marketplace features booths featuring the art of approximately 16 artists aged approximately 18 and under.
In addition to artist booths, Art at the Park also features live music, food vendors, and children’s activities. Each day of the festival begins with a magic show at 9:30 a.m., Turner said, and a Kids Creative Space invites kids to participate in crafts like tie dyeing, decorating pots and planting seeds, and offers face painting, henna tattoos and caricatures , all near the city park playground. The Trout Museum of Art is partnering with Mile of Music for the festival, bringing local Wisconsin musicians to the stage as a sneak peek of what’s to come at Mile of Music in a few weeks. Food trucks, tents and beer vendors sell food and drinks to festival-goers.
For artists, Art at the Park is more than just an opportunity to sell their work in a marketplace; there is also a chance to win awards and cash prizes.
Art at the Park annually invites a judge, usually from outside, to select seven award winners, who will receive cash awards totaling $5,000: A Best of Show award will award an artist $2,000 and to cover their booth fee for next year’s festival, a top 2D artist and a top 3D artist will each receive $1,000 plus to cover their booth fee for next year’s festival, and four merit awards will award artists $250 each Dollar. This year’s judge is David Najib Kasir, an oil painter from Milwaukee. The winners will be announced on Saturday at 4:15 p.m.
Appleton Downtown, Inc. ranks Art at the Park as the third largest event in the Fox Cities after Mile of Music and Oktoberfest.
However, Art at the Park offers a more family-friendly experience than the other two big Appleton events, which focus on bars and music, Turner said.
“I love Oktoberfest and I love Mile of Music, but I would say Art at the Park is great because it focuses on seeing art and being in the park as a family,” Turner said.
While Art at the Park is a free event, Turner said attendees who choose to donate to the Trout Museum of Art at the festival or online will have their donation matched by the John and Julie Schmidt Family Foundation.
Contact Kelli Arseneau at (920) 213-3721 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @ArseneauKelli.