For 1 weekend out of the year, Downtown Bellevue becomes a city fully immersed in the celebration of art and creative expression. From July 23rd – 25th, 3 different art fairs filled the streets with artist booths, music, and live performance. The weather proved a perfect match for the annual outdoor festivities, which are all free, and a reminder of how lucky one is to live in the area.
The 6th Street Fair, produced by the Bellevue Downtown Association, took over the thoroughfare of NE 6th Street as and 106th Ave NE, lining the street with vendor tents showcasing over 130 artists. The mediums included glass, jewelry, printmaking, photography, pottery and sculpture, textiles, and woodwork. Crowds could wander freely through the open-air galleries and talk directly with the artists about their pieces. Dozens of specialty food and concession stands were available for people to discover new products and enjoy the fine art of enjoying a meal under a sunny afternoon sky. Set against the picturesque backdrop of the permanent sculpture display at the Bellevue Galleria was a stage area where live entertainment played on for all 3 days of the 6th Street Fair. Over a dozen performers with genres ranging from bluegrass, to folk, to flamenco, and soul came to entertain the crowds.
Wandering 1 block over, crowds gathered at the Bellevue Festival of the Arts, produced by the Craft Cooperative of the Northwest. This juried arts and crafts fair is organized from a grass roots movement to raise funds to support local and global charities, while giving artists a venue to present their work. Held in the parking lot of Cost Plus World Market off NE 8th Street, the Bellevue Festival of the Arts composed a vibrant outdoor gallery of original art, from sculpture and paintings to wearable pieces like jewelry and clothing, weaving its way through the outdoor shopping area.
At the center of the art celebration is Bellevue Arts Museum’s annual BAM artsfair. Now in its 64th year, it’s 1 of the largest art fairs in the Pacific Northwest, attracting hundreds of artists from the region as well as from across the country. Walking through the winding rows of booths that take over the lower covered parking level of the Bellevue Square Mall, one can see where each artist traveled from, whether it’s just across Lake Washington from a studio in Seattle or all the way from New York. It also provided visitors with the opportunity to meet and talk with the winners of this year’s Carol Duke Artist Awards of Excellence, celebrating unique vision and creativity.
Along with the artist booths, there were several interactive and performance areas meant for all ages. Chalk artist Brian Major gathered crowds as he recreated beloved pieces by Botticelli and Degas on the cobbled pavement surface in front of BAM. The museum opened its doors for free admission on all 3 days and converted its entrance and back area into a creative adventure for children where they could create masks, sock puppets, and art cards. Attracting crowds of all ages was the glassblowing demonstration outside of the artist booths, displaying the power of intense heat combined with skilled hands, which can form such delicate, colorful creations. Inside the mall, a stage hosted dozens of performances, many from local schools, showing that art and creativity is an enriching experience.