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New Local Fair Brings Art, History to Minnesota River Valley

The first ever Minnesota River Arts Fair will take place this weekend at the The Landing in Shakopee.

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The inaugural Minnesota River Arts Fair will occur this weekend.

Its organizers hope the festival, which exclusively features Minnesota artists, will demonstrate that you don’t have to look far to find great art.

“It’s a family friendly event that has high quality artwork and events that bring history and arts together,” said Denise Baerg, media manager for the fair and a member of the Savage Arts Council board of directors at large.

This new, regional celebration was the brainchild of Jefferson Spilman, managing director of The Landing at Heritage Park in Shakopee, where the fair will be held. Spilman proposed the idea approximately 18 months ago and since then the Three Rivers Park District and the Savage Arts Council have worked together to coordinate the event.

The fair’s location is part of what differentiates it from similar regional art festivals. The Landing is a historic replica of a working village from the 1880s and consists of restored period buildings from the area, which have been transported to the site to create a late 19th century atmosphere. 

During the fair, the village will be populated by costumed period actors, who will educate attendees about life in the 1800s.

The event's emphasis on local artists also sets it apart from comparable fairs.

Only Minnesota-based artists are eligible to participate. Baerg stated that she hadn’t heard of any other local festival with such a policy.

The artists who are scheduled to have booths at the fair were all specifically chosen by a selection committee.

“The caliber of artists seemed to be very high,” said Lisa Tate, a Moorhead-based glass artists who will be displaying her work at the fair.

Tate creates cameo glass, which is the carving of glass with multiple layers of color. She is one of a dozen cameo artists working in the U.S. and one of 30 such artists worldwide.

“I think that it’s very important to support local and regional artists,” said Tate.

Tate is among the 40 Minnesota artists who will be showing pieces this weekend. Work on display will include painting, jewelry, photography, mixed media and pottery.

35 plein air (French for “open air”) painters will also be in attendance at the fair. These artists are contestants in a weeklong outdoor painting competition

They are currently in the midst of a one-week painting period, during which they have free reign to paint anything, anywhere on-site at The Landing. The competition began at noon on July 22 and will end this Saturday. Competition judges will distribute more than $1,000 in cash and prizes.

An optional quick painting competition will immediately follow submission for the weeklong contest. Artists will have an hour and a half to paint in the park, beginning at noon. Awards for both competitions will be held at 2 p.m.

The fair will also include a children’s tent, a variety of eclectic musical performances and several food vendors.

Ten local nonprofit arts organizations are partnering with the fair and will receive complimentary booth space.

Profits from beverage sales at the fair will be divided evenly to fund both The Landing and Savage Arts Council community programming.

Baerg estimates as many as 3,000 people will attend the fair.

The event budget was approximately $25,000. It was funded by artist participation fees, the Savage Arts Council and by various sponsors.

The Minnesota River Arts Fair will take place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on July 28 and 29. Heritage Park will waive its standard admission fee during the weekend of the fair.

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