Bloomington’s Fair of the Arts is returning to Showers Plaza every other Saturday from May through October for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Additionally, local artists can sell their art at the Tuesday Market at the Switchyard Park every other Tuesday from June through September.
“A Fair of the Arts is meant to be an art fair for local artists who don’t have the opportunity to sell their goods at the higher level,” Bloomington City Community Events Manager Leslie Brinson said.
Brinson said Bloomington has historically supported the arts, but the pandemic put a strain on local artists. She said she guessed artists didn’t have as much product as they usually made.
“We found certainly in 2021 that artists just weren’t making their art because there weren't as many opportunities to sell it,” Brinson said.
Brinson said artists have an opportunity to express themselves and their artwork with local residents at the fair. The only requirement for the fair is that their art must be homemade.
“Customers can ask questions and learn more about the art items than if they were in a store and buying them off the shelf,” Brinson said.
She said the city expects fewer applications due to the pandemic and the necessary customer interaction, but the city will continue to follow protocols such as spacing out vendors, encouraging mask-wearing, and having hand sanitizer available at multiple locations.
In the past, Brinson said 50 to 60 artists applied for the fair.
Artists must submit the application before Feb. 25 and pay an application fee of $15. If selected, artists must pay a fee of $55 per fair and all artists will be categorized by style of work and medium. Some examples include clay, drawing, painting, photography and fiber arts.
She said she hopes they’ll receive 30 to40 artist applications and hopefully 15 to25 artists will set up booths each weekend. Before the pandemic, Brinson said approximately 500 to 700 people came to the fair each Saturday. She predicts the turnout will decrease but is unsure to what extent.
“Our expectation and our hope is that we can provide an experience that is valuable to both the customer and the vendor,” Brinson said.
Marc Tschida, a local wood crafter who specializes in wooden jigsaw puzzles, said in an email he looks forward to reuniting with the art community at the Fair of the Arts.
“We have all had to adapt over the past two years with the pandemic, with each year getting a little easier to navigate,” Tschida said in an email. “I hope we will return to some semblance of an event closer to normal – especially with this being an outdoor event.”
He’s been selling homemade wooden jigsaw puzzles at A Fair of the Arts since 2014 and also sells his work on his website, Press Puzzles. His works are sold at various stores in Indiana located in Bloomington, Nashville and Indianapolis.
Tschida makes freehand cut puzzles featuring photos of different landmarks in Indiana, 3D freestanding puzzles with sci-fi and fantasy themes and mixed woods puzzles. He began making puzzles to create unique Bloomington-themed gifts. Now, he teaches the craft at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking.
Community Arts Coordinator Crystal Ritter said in an email she saw a lot of creativity in the fair, such as Tschida’s puzzles, and she hopes to host the event without any cancellations due to weather or the pandemic.
“Many artists and art fairs have new and creative ways to reach potential shoppers through social media, new, updated websites, etc,” Ritter said in an email. “I am hoping for beautiful, sunny weather and a great turnout.”