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For over 40 years, Summerfair Cincinnati has been supporting and promoting artists and the arts in Greater Cincinnati. The organization's activities include: supports for individual artists including awards and exhibitions; community-based art activities and events; and a nationally-recognized annual fine arts fair.
The effectiveness of Summerfair Cincinnati's activities has earned the organization regional and national recognition including: Greater Cincinnati Convention & Visitors Bureau Outstanding Service Award, Southwestern Ohio Art Education Award for Distinguished Organization, American Marketing Association Community Impact Award, the National Association of Independent Artists Artists’ Choice Award, and the Post-Corbett Award of Excellence.
The History of Summerfair Cincinnati
Summerfair had its beginnings in 1968 when a group of Mt. Adams residents met and decided to hold an arts festival to salute the opening of the new Playhouse in the Park - the Robert S. Marx Theater. Some members of the group were Karen (Garrison) Kelly, Kitty Stephens and Ken Schmidt. Hanging in the Summerfair Cincinnati office is the menu on which she and Brooks Jones, then director of the Playhouse in the Park, discussed the possibility of an art fair. This group would gather on Wednesday nights with a pot luck supper and discuss their ideas until the event was planned. The festival included art, music, crafts and other festivities held on the streets of Mt. Adams to be enjoyed by the community as a whole.
This seemed the ideal location because of the close proximity not only to the Playhouse, but also the Art Museum, Museum of Natural History, Krohn Conservatory, the Murray Seasongood Pavilion and beautiful Eden Park. Everyone was invited to "Do Your Thing" to the sounds of Aquarius. You could rent a 10 foot space for only $3.00 and admission was free to the public. With the purchase of a 10 cent map, visitors could stroll amongst the art exhibits, flower carts, fruit stands, puppet shows, musicians and children's story-telling sessions.
The popularity of the newly named Summerfair necessitated its moving to a larger location, Eden Park. Improvements and restructuring of Summerfair were made after the 1970 fair. Summerfair became incorporated as a not for profit corporation with guidelines for supporting the Arts in Cincinnati.
After nine years in the downtown area, Summerfair moved upriver to Coney Island in 1977. The art work was judged for the first time by a jury of art experts, adding credibility to the fair's reputation in the community. The first formal poster competition produced the 'frog' poster. This poster competition has become a well known part of Summerfair and draws dozens of applicants each year. By 1979, more fairgoers and artists were expected so Summerfair was relocated to the Riverfront Coliseum, Riverfront Stadium and surrounding plaza. For the first time, an experimental grant of $500 was awarded to two U.C. Fine Arts graduates to transform the Coliseum into participatory artwork. They did this by hanging strips of mylar from the roof, through the stands and across the floor to the roof of the building. Artists numbering 250 participated that year having sales of more than $350,000.
In 1985, Summerfair moved back to Coney Island, where it remains today. It was expanded to include areas such as Performing Arts and the Youth Arts Area. It is one of the oldest continuous art fairs in the nation.
Each year, Summerfair Cincinnati, Inc. proves its dedication to promoting Cincinnati's fine arts and crafts by offering the Aid to Individual Artists Award Program. This program began in 1981 and was the first such program in Cincinnati that financially assists individual artists. Professional jurors award $3,000 each to four local artists yearly.
In 1980, Summerfair Cincinnati, Inc. received the Corbett award in recognition of its contributions to the arts community. In 1983, Summerfair Cincinnati, Inc. members began a fundraising effort to restore the Eden Park Gazebo, an appropriate gesture for a landmark on what was once the site of Summerfair. In 1987, Summerfair Cincinnati, Inc. initiated a $3,000 challenge grant to aid artists who suffered losses in the Big Four Fire.
Today, Summerfair Cincinnati has expanded to include more than 100 members. With continued community support, Summerfair Cincinnati continues to look for new ways to support the arts, both visual and performing, in Greater Cincinnati.
Art Fairs Longevity
Read about longevity in art fairs that continue succeesfully for over 25-years, including Summerfair now in its 46th year in 2013! (The article is in PDF format.) (Copyright 2011 - Sunshine Artist magazine)
Summerfair In the News
Sunshine Artist is the "go-to" magaizine for artists and art show enthusiasts on the national art shows circuit. Annually, in the September issues, Sunshine Artist compiles its annual "200 Best" show list. 2011 Summerfair is again ranked in The 100 Best "Fine Art & Design Shows"; coming in at #23. Read the State Report and Review here. (Copyright 2012 - Sunshine Artist magazine.)