Wickford Art Festival, July, 1998 Photo by Ernest A. Brown III, courtesy of North Kingstown, Rhode Island Standard Times
Wickford Arts Festival
In the summer of 1961, a small group of Wickford,
Rhode Island area artists put together a small sidewalk show on
Franklin Street in Wickford. Buoyed by its success, they decided to
form an organization later that year -- the Wickford Art
Association -- to make it an annual event. The first Wickford Arts
Festival was held in 1962, when 50 artists exhibited a total of
about 1500 paintings. That first year, an estimated 7,500 - 10,000
visited the Festival.
Now in its 38 year, the Wickford Art Festival has
grown in size, prominence and prestige. Artists from around the
world compete for the few coveted spaces that become available each
year, though a percentage of the space is guaranteed to local
artists who are members of the Wickford Art Association. Attendance
is now close to 100,000 annually, and the works of over 250 artists
are exhibited. With the additional attraction of being located in
an historic seaside village, the Festival has been ranked the
number one fine arts festival in New England.
Sponsored by the all-volunteer Wickford Art
Association, it has maintained and strengthened its community ties,
utilizing the efforts of local Boy Scouts, the Rotary Club, and
several Wickford churches who offer free coffee and donuts to the
artists setting up their exhibits. They also sell a variety of
local foods, including clam chowder and clam cakes prepared with
Rhode Island's ubiquitous mollusk, the quahog. Neighbors provide
food, drink and even shelter when needed to artists when the
weather threatens. Proceeds of the Festival are used to fund
college scholarships awarded to local high school seniors who are
interested in pursuing careers in art, and to operate the Wickford
Art Association Gallery.
Through the years, the Festival has remained true to
its original intention of providing local artists with a venue for
exhibiting and selling their work. Rhode Island has the most
artists per capita of any state in the country, and the makeup of
Festival exhibitors strongly reflects the State's artistic
Documentation comprises a 12-page report, setting
forth a history of the show by each decade of its existence, 25
photographs, newspaper clippings and memorabilia from various
Wickford Art Festivals, including posters, exhibitor cards, artist
applications, maps, letters, invitations, brochures, programs,
postcards, tee-shirts from the 1992 and 1999 festivals, and a 1985
art festival pin.
Originally submitted by: Robert Weygand, Representative (2nd District).
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