Bethesda Row Arts Festival – Part 1: What is an arts festival exactly and why should I go?

Bethesda Row Arts Festival – Located in Downtown Bethesda, Maryland

Grabbed a quick bite at the new Gusto Farm to Street before checking out the exhibiting artists!

The Bethesda Row Arts Festival took place this past weekend in downtown Bethesda, Maryland.  Many locals already know this area as a fun place to enjoy delicious restaurants and storefront shopping.  On this particular weekend, the streets in front of the Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema became a pedestrian haven and made way for row after row of white tents.

Michael Gard’s sculpture displayed in front of the Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema.

What is an Arts Festival Exactly?

Are you asking yourself, what is an arts festival exactly?  Why should I go?  Will I have any fun?  Let’s answer all of these questions!  First off, an arts festival is when many artists gather at one time to display their work, usually in an outdoor setting.  The atmosphere is casual and fun and most of the time admission is free!  The Bethesda Row Arts Festival had live music playing for visitors of all ages to enjoy.  It’s a great venue to meet up with friends or socialize with other members of your community.  A major advantage of an arts festival is that you can discover the work of many different artists all in one location.  Each tent becomes a mini gallery showcasing the best of one artist’s creations.  The artist is usually on-hand and available to answer any questions about his or her work.  Overall, an arts festival is a great place to be inspired, meet creative people, and see what is trending in the art world.

Tips for Purchasing Artwork at an Arts Festival

Of course, everything at an arts festival is also for sale!  The pieces are usually all tagged with titles, mediums, and prices.  The Bethesda Row Arts Festival had artwork on display ranging from $45 to $20,000.  I know that I appreciate seeing the prices up front.  It saves me from the dreaded sticker-shock face if something is dramatically above the price I imagined.  TIP: Do not be afraid to talk to artists about your price point.   If a piece is not in your price range, they may be able to suggest one that is.  For example, if an original painting is not in the budget, the artist may have a print on paper of the same piece.  Or, if the gorgeous (and giant) canvas on prime display is completely out of your price range, there may be a smaller composition tucked away with a similar look or feel.  It never hurts to ask!

Also, if you have visited a festival towards the end of the day (or it is near the end of the festival) and you are serious about acquiring a piece, consider talking to the artist about the possibility of a discount.  TIP: While I do not recommend haggling (you do not want to belittle someone’s time, effort, and expertise), an artist may be more motivated to sell at the end of the day and thus, may (but not always) extend a bit of wiggle room in the pricing.  A sale at the end of the day means one less piece that he or she has to pack up and bring back to the studio.  No matter the scenario, it always helps to be gracious.  Talk to the artist about how much you love the work and where you plan on displaying this perfect piece.  Ultimately, the artist wants you to go home a happy collector and you want to go home with a beautiful artwork.

Something else to keep in mind: whether or not artists have room to negotiate on pricing may depend on where they are in their career.  Someone who has just started out in the fine arts business may be looking to grow a following and be excited to make a first sale.  A more established artist likely has set price points at galleries around the country and a strong collector following.  Careers and price points are built thoughtfully over time and it is important to be respectful of both the tangible value (comprised of things like the substrate, medium, and tools used) and intangible value (encompassing the artist’s time, talent, and expertise) behind each art piece.

At a festival, many vendors still appreciate cash versus check or credit card.  TIP: It is always worth asking about a discount if you are paying with cash.  Cash can be less of a hassle for the vendor.  So bring cash when you can!

Supporting the Arts is Key to Vibrant Community

Whether you are looking to add to your collection or just want to absorb a little creativity, coming out and supporting a local arts festival will be worth your time.  Easy City Art, a DC Visual Arts Publication, says it best in the mission statement on their Facebook page:

“…The visual arts provide neighborhood vitality and stimulate local businesses while encouraging residential and retail development.  More importantly, the arts provide a vibrant forum for community discussion, debate and discovery…” 

So, in a nutshell, let’s keep on gathering, keep on discussing, keep on debating, and keep on discovering!  Support strong local communities and the arts and have a great time while you’re doing it!

Have you been to an awesome arts festival?  Where was it located?  Let me know all about it in the comments section below!!

**Want to know which artists stood out at this year’s festival?  Don’t forget to check out Part 2 of this Post, Bethesda Row Arts Festival – Let’s Get to the Art!**

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