BY TRACY ZOLLINGER TURNER
In 1977, a group of Bloomington artists had a vision: to create an annual festival where local residents could enjoy and buy high-quality arts and crafts. Now, 41 years later, the Fourth Street Festival of the Arts & Crafts draws more than 42,000 patrons from the Midwest to its two-day juried show, held each year over Labor Day weekend.
A nucleus of 16 professional south-central Indiana–based artists—all of whom work art shows around the country—meet once a month to organize the event, according to festival committee president Vicki Munn. “Together we have a cumulative experience of 400 years doing art shows.” There is one paid staffer—director Jean Kautt.
In its first year, the festival hosted about 55 artists. Now there are 120 booths filled with the wares of artists and craftspeople. Performing arts and kids’ activities have also been added, including all-day music performances arranged by Lee VanBuskirk of the 02R Blues Band, a spoken-word stage organized by The Writers Guild at Bloomington, and a children’s activity tent run by the Lotus Education & Arts Foundation.
“We are a national draw and our artists usually represent over 30 states,” Munn says. “Each year, 40 percent of our artists are also new to the festival. We are very well curated.” Annually, the local organizing committee seeks out new jurors—generally established, working artists—from around the country. That small group then reviews the work of the 300–400 artists who apply, using a blind, online process. This year, a glass artist from Minnesota, a ceramicist from Michigan, and a painter from New Mexico were the jurors.
“We have a particularly good selection of blown glass because we had one glassblower juror,” Munn says.
The Fourth Street Festival takes place September 1 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and September 2 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on East 4th Street between Indiana Avenue and Grant Street.
For more information, visit 4thstreet.org.
Check out the photo gallery below to see the work of some of the artists participating in the Fourth Street Festival. (Click on the photo below to start the slideshow. Use the on-screen arrows or the arrows on your keyboard to navigate forward and backward.)