In those days, everyone squeezed together on the sidewalk while traffic whizzed by amid all of the activity. “You’d step off the curb and come face-to-face with a bus,” he said.
Since then, the fair has become highly professional. But the thing Bond likes best about it is something that remains unchanged: “It has a neighborly feeling, even though it’s a big show,” he said.
Bond, who travels to the area from River Falls, Wis., is already starting to get ready for the fair, which will liven up the intersection of 50th Street and France Avenue S. from June 6 to 8.
He’s not the only one. The 50th and France Business and Professional Association, which plans the fair, is beginning to ramp up its publicity efforts. Recently, the group picked local artist Ashley Barlow’s brightly colored mixed-media work “Summer Dip” to grace the fair’s promotional materials.
The thriving Edina Art Fair, which is in its 48th year, signals art fair season in Minnesota. It’s the second-largest art fair in the state, just behind the Uptown Art Fair, according to event materials.
Each year, the fair makes way for more than 300 artists, according to Rachel Thelemann, executive director of the 50th and France Business and Professional Association.
Artists are chosen out of a pool of 800 applicants, and the exhibitors represent a diverse mix of all mediums and local and national artists, she said.
One of the fair’s greatest strengths is the variety of artwork on display, she said.
Drawings, ceramics, jewelry, wood carvings, photography, sculpture, glass, clothing — you name it, it can be found at the fair.
Some artists do high-end oil paintings, while others make “great lawn art,” she said, adding, “It’s a nice mix.”
That said, in recent years Thelemann has noticed more mixed-media and collage work at the fair. Garden art and unique jewelry and fashion items are also popular, she said.
Plus, the fair has a good track record for returning artists, and it’s always attracting new people.
Despite the sheer scale of the event, Thelemann does her best to make sure the layout is intuitive and familiar, even assigning exhibitors to the same locations whenever possible. That way, fairgoers can track down their favorite artists, she said.
Refining the fair
What’s new or different this year? For starters, the silent auction that started last year will have more of a gallery layout, with donated artwork on easels. “It gives people an opportunity to see those artists early and look for their booths in the fair,” she said.
The auction benefits the 50th and France association and the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota, Thelemann said. The foundation also receives the proceeds from fair merchandise.
Even though the fair has long had family-friendly activities, last year the association took it up a notch by forming a “kid zone.” That’s coming back, with a bouncy house, Velcro wall, bungee jump, slide, entertainment and hands-on art projects, Thelemann said.
Plus, an exhibit of student work that’s part of the “Foot in the Fair” program will also be in the kid zone. “It adds to the community aspect, which is what our fair and district like to encompass in everything we do,” she said.
The difference this time around is that the kid zone will also be “more of a parent’s oasis, a place to get away from the crowd,” with seating areas and food.
Food vendors, including celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern’s food truck, AZ Canteen, will be on hand, while stilt walkers, musicians and other strolling entertainers will contribute to the festive ambience, she said.
All in all, the fair presents “a great way to get out and get a taste of the art,” she said.
Pursuing art full time
For Bond, whose regular spot is the Lunds parking lot, the fair is like a homecoming. He sees lots of old friends and always meets new people. Some people have purchased pieces from him every year, he said.
Bond, a printmaker originally from England, creates impressionistic city scenes, usually places that have inspired him during his travels locally and abroad. He uses intaglio printmaking techniques that never fall out of fashion, he said.
Ironically, Bond, who’s always had an artistic bent, became interested in the art form after reading about British etchers in a volume that he found at a used bookstore in northern Wisconsin.
That was in 1979. After he began to try out the techniques the book laid out, he decided to pursue art full time.
The medium continues to hold his interest. “There’s so much you can do with a metal plate,” he said, adding, “It takes over your life.”
The featured artist
After a jury picks out the show’s top artists, the events committee votes on what to feature, according to Kali Cascarano, the general manager of College Nannies and Tutors, who also volunteers with the group.
Ashley Barlow’s work “Summer Dip,” which shows a vintage image of a woman poised to jump into a pool, stood out as unique and colorful, she said. That’s symbolic of the fair in and of itself, she said. It’s more contemporary than previous selections, which also made it stand out.
Barlow, 29, of St. Louis Park, said the opportunity was a pleasant surprise.
The original 8-inch-by-10-inch work “was fun to make. I like to have fun in the studio. I try not to stress too much,” she said.
Barlow started with the image of the woman. Right away, “I knew it’d be a great complement to a fun abstract background,” she said.
The bright pool area “feels like a textile, like a pattern,” she said.
Sometimes she starts with an image and builds around that. Other times, she does the opposite. It’s similar to the way she works on the computer screen. “My work in graphic design expresses itself in the collage art environment,” she said.
Last year, she played around a lot with geometric shapes and patterns. More recently, she’s been interested in illustration. She’s also been doing a daily hand-lettering project. “I’m not a perfectionist. I love the imperfections that show up. It’s part of process. A lot is the result of happy mistakes along the way,” she said.
She has fond memories of the art fair when she was young. She and her grandmother, who still lives at 50th and France, and her father always spent time together at the art fair.
Last year was her first on the other side of things at the fair. Since she grew up in the area, she connected with many old friends. “It’s great having the community support at the fair,” she said.
“I never take it lightly when someone compliments or buys my work,” she said. “I leave feeling full and grateful and excited for next year.”
Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.