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This Weekend’s Art Fair on the Square to Draw Hundreds of Diverse Artists

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The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) will host the 61st annual Art Fair on the Square this weekend, featuring nearly 500 artists in 489 booths.

“Art Fair on the square started in 1958 and it was really a way to introduce the people of Madison to contemporary artists,” MMoCADirector of Events & Volunteers Annik Dupaty said.

Each year talented artists from throughout the United States and Canada apply to participate in one of the nation’s largest art fairs. While 20 percent of the participating artists have the opportunity to exhibit their work at the fair for the first time ever, most artists apply to return each year.

The selection process is highly competitive; approximately one in four applicants receive acceptance through a jury process. Dupaty said jurors will look for impact, originality and execution in the artists’ work. 

“This weekend I’m most looking forward to meeting fellow artists, gaining a few new collectors, and enjoying a beautiful summer weekend in Madison,” Emerging Artist Sharon Bjyrd said. 

Originally from the South Side of Chicago, Bjyrd is best known for her vibrant portraits celebrating the beauty and diversity of the Black experience. Her work has been shown at Plus Gallery in Chicago, Hatch Art House in Madison and the Silver Room Block Party 100 Canvas Event in Chicago. 

Bjyrd describes her work as “somewhat eclectic and range from Toulouse-Latrec’s use of color to set a mood to Kehinde Wiley’s play with brown skintones against African prints.” She said participating in events like Art Fair on the Square helps to showcase her artwork to a broader audience while feeling a sense of community.

Painting by Sharon Bjyrd

“My hope is that people of color will be excited to see representation of themselves at the Art Fair, and that everyone will appreciate the diversity and bit of culture my work will bring,” Bjyrd said.

Dupaty explained that events like Art Fair on the Square are rare opportunities for artists to engage with patrons face-to-face while making a sale. She also said the longstanding tradition benefits the local economy. In 2018, artists reported average sales of $6,414 per booth during the fair – generating nearly $3 million in total artwork sales, according to the MMoCA. 

“The Fair tends to attract about 200,000 people each year,” Dupaty said.

Art Fair on the Square will bring together artists from about 42 U.S. states for what may be the city’s oldest ongoing and free cultural event. 

In addition to the artists’ booths, about 40 concessions stands will offer a wide variety of eats and beverages to patrons.