OLD TOWN — The Old Town Art Fair is coming back next month after being canceled last year because of the pandemic.
The fair, which takes over the Old Town Triangle Historic District and features work from hundreds of artists, will be held June 12-13, making it among the first street festivals returning to Chicago this summer.
Due to the ongoing coronavirus precautions, advance registration is mandatory. Sign-ups will open 10 a.m. Saturday on the Old Town Art Fair’s website.
“It means a lot for Old Town to have this fair back,” said Anne Giffels, chair of the Old Town Art Fair. “It’s a sign that we’re beginning to emerge from this awful time we’ve all had since the pandemic started.”
This year’s fair will feature paintings, sculptures, digital creations, music and other forms of artwork from more than 200 creators, Giffels said.
The fair also has an outdoor garden walk, where dozens of Old Town neighbors will open up their yards for people to admire and learn about their gardens.
“I love the garden walk. Houses will usually have signs out front to talk about what kind of garden they have and its special features,” Giffels said. “It’s fun to just walk around and admire them because it’s early summer so their gardens are looking beautiful.”
For kids, the fair will have a “Children’s Corner,” put on by local community center the Menomonee Club, where children can get face-paintings, and create arts and crafts of their own.
The Old Town Art Fair started 71 years ago as a small festival in which neighbors would hang their artwork on the fence posts outside. The festival has since grown into a nationally recognized event that raises money to support Old Town’s schools and community centers like the Menomonee Club, Giffels said.
“There’s a very real benefit to the fair being back because its proceeds are always given back out to the community through grants,” Giffels said. “That’s something we couldn’t do last year, so it’s impactful that we can bring the fair back for them.”
The fair will also bring much-needed foot traffic back to Old Town’s small businesses, which have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, while also supporting artists who missed out on the fair last year.
“The arts and food and beverage industries are among the hardest hit because of this pandemic,” Giffels said. “They’ve lost most of their revenue stream, but this fair gives them an opportunity to welcome some of those visitors back.”
Face masks and temperature checks will be required for entry, Giffels said. The festival will also have a slightly larger footprint this year to ensure room for social distancing between booths. Additional safety measures could be introduced as city and state guidelines continue to evolve.
More information on the festival can be found on the Old Town Art Fair’s website.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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