APPLETON – Appleton’s annual Art at the Park returns Saturday for a weekend of art, crafts, music, food vendors and family-friendly fun.
This year marks the 62nd annual Art at the Park. The event started in 1960, with just 15 local artists and around 200 attendees, according to the Trout Museum of Art’s website. That same year, the Appleton Arts Guild — which would later become the Trout Museum of Art — was founded. Now, nearly 170 artists share their work at the event, which is hosted by the Trout Museum, and thousands of guests attend.
Art at the Park moved from a single-day festival to a two-day event in 2021. This year’s festival takes place 9 am to 6 pm Saturday and 9 am to 4 pm Sunday in City Park, located at 500 E. Franklin St. Admission and parking are free.
This year’s Art at the Park is also a bittersweet celebration: it’s the first festival since the death of one of its founders, Phil Sealy.
A longtime Appleton resident, Sealy returned to sell his watercolor paintings at Art at the Park for years. Sealy was a founding member of Appleton Artists Guild in 1960, and served on the Trout Museum of Art’s board up until the pandemic hit, museum executive director Christina Turner said. In 2018, Sealy was honored with the first ever Fox Cities Arts and Culture Award. He died in December 2021.
“His wife passed away within a week of him. They were both in their 90s. And he was still painting up until the day he died,” Turner said.
This year, Art at the Park will have a booth at the corner of Drew and Franklin streets — the same place Sealy would always have his booth — remembering the founder. Attendees will be able to chat with Sealy’s family and purchase some of Sealy’s paintings, with proceeds going to the Sealy family trust, which is donated to different organizations, Turner said.
At this year’s festival, 166 professional artists will set up tents selling different types of artwork, from paintings to jewelry to ceramics to woodworking and more. Artists apply for a booth and are accepted by a panel of three jurors, who accept artists based on quality and a balance of different mediums, Turner said. Additionally, a Young Artist Marketplace has booths featuring the art of about 16 artists around age 18 and younger.
Beyond artist booths, Art at the Park also features live music, food vendors and activities for kids. Each day of the festival kicks off with a magic show at 9:30 am, Turner said, and a Kids Creative Space invites children to participate in crafts like tie dye, decorating pots and planting seeds, and offers face painting, henna tattoos and caricatures , all near the City Park playground. The Trout Museum of Art partners with Mile of Music for the festival, bringing local Wisconsin musicians to the stage As a small taste of what is to come at a Mile of Music in a few weeks. Food trucks, tents and beer vendors will sell food and beverages to festival attendees.
For artists, Art at the Park is more than just a chance to sell their work in a marketplace; There is also a chance to win awards and win prize money.
Art at the Park annually invites one judge, typically from out-of-town, to determine seven award winners, who will receive monetary prizes totaling $5,000: A Best of Show award will award one artist $2,000 and coverage of their booth fee for next year’s festival, a Best 2D artist and Best 3D artist will each receive $1,000 plus coverage of their booth fee for next year’s festival, and four Merit awards will award artists $250 each. This year’s judge is David Najib Kasir, a Milwaukee-based oil painter. The winners will be announced at 4:15 pm Saturday.
Appleton Downtown, Inc. names Art at the Park the third largest event in the Fox Cities, after Mile of Music and Octoberfest.
Art at the Park, however, offers a more family-friendly experience than the other two major Appleton events, which focus on bars and music, Turner said.
“I love Octoberfest and I love Mile of Music, but I would say that Art at the Park is great because it’s focused on looking at art and being out in the park as a family,” Turner said.
While Art at the Park is a free event, Turner said attendees who choose to donate to the Trout Museum of Art at the festival or online will have their donation matched by grant donor John and Julie Schmidt Family Foundation.