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You all probably know that I love art museums and galleries, but I’m also a really big fan of local arts events run in public gathering places. In this post, I’ll tell you why I think they’re worth attending.
Types of events
The most common type of local arts events is exhibitions by local artists in places like libraries or performing arts venues. However, my favorites are the day or weekend-long events where you can meet the artists in person and survey their offerings. Think of them like farmer’s markets or flea markets for art. The vibe is sort of similar. These events are often held outside in parks, town squares, public gardens, etc. Thus, you can enjoy the benefits of both art viewing and spending time in nature simultaneously. Summer and early autumn are the peak season for such events, and some may also occur around the holidays. They are generally free to visit, and if there is a modest admission charge, it often goes to support a cause like a local charity or art school. So-called studio tours are typically organized by artists’ associations and involve local artists opening their homes and studios to visitors, who follow a special map to walk or drive from stop to stop.
Why you should visit
Almost every area has artists, so there’s a good chance you’ll have access to a few shows, even if you live somewhere not generally known for its art. All the artists won’t necessarily be super local; the most recent local art fair I attended had participants from several states. However, you’ll quickly realize that there are many more art lovers in your area than you might have guessed, and they aren’t all art-school graduates or full-time professionals. Artists are usually super happy to talk with you about their work, so I highly recommend striking up a conversation if the opportunity presents. Supporting these artists is a great feeling, and your attendance and interest do just that. There’s absolutely no obligation to buy anything, but the asking prices tend to be relatively modest, and it’s nice to feel that you could afford something if you wanted it.
What I really love about these events are that they’re chill and inviting – just like any other community gathering. Most visitors are not seasoned art enthusiasts, and nobody will expect you to have an intense conversation about art theory or anything like that. As an expert, even I feel more relaxed and able to better enjoy the art without being super serious and scholarly about it. Because these artists aren’t big-name commercial successes, their art tends to be much less trendy (and thus more approachable) than what you’ll see in the average gallery or museum. That’s not to say it’s any less worth seeing; it’s just not usually pretentious or filled with the artist’s ego. You will probably also see cool art forms, media, and techniques that you wouldn’t typically find in a museum or gallery. If you’re worried about feeling overwhelmed by visiting a museum or by the kind of art you’ll see there, you will probably be more comfortable starting out at a local arts event.
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How do you find out about art shows in your area? Keep an area out for flyers wherever your community usually advertises other local happenings, like the window of the post office, bulletin board at the diner, or town periodical. If your area has an arts council, cultural council, or something else like that, they often organize such events, so follow them on social media or sign up for their email list. Local art schools and artists’ associations often put on shows as well, and they may also publicize other shows with members participation. Finally, some community gathering spots like libraries, bookstores, coffee shops, and performing arts venues host art exhibitions on a fairly regular basis, often without a lot of publicity.
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