The word “local” gets used a lot these days. Eat local food, buy local goods, support local businesses. But it’s not a marketing gimmick, it’s a celebration of culture. From author and co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons Gary Gygax to indie folk band Bon Iver, Wisconsin has given breath to the inspired, the innovative, and the influential. The Agora Art Fair in Fitchburg seeks to capture the spirit of local by giving artists a creatively fueled platform in which they can showcase their pieces.
To get a picture of the Agora Art Fair experience, it’s necessary to know what the Fitchburg Center looks like. A long building split into three wings. Each building is supported by brick columns framing large sections of windows that look out to the street on one side and a tall-grass prairie with paved trails on the other. Connecting each wing is a windowed skywalk—a stone tower with a raised octagonal roof on either end. Balconies jut out incrementally to provide an uninhibited view of the landscape. This beautiful structure serves as the epicenter of the block-long art fair.
The fair really starts with the artists—over 100 of them in various mediums. “These are all true artists,” says Steven Leverentz, Agora Art Fair’s event coordinator. “It’s not just necessarily a hobby for them, it’s a passion. It’s a living for them.” These Wisconsin artists have dedicated themselves to their mediums. “We have everything from painting to sculpture to clothing to jewelry, pottery, ceramics, photography. There’s 2-D and 3-D mixed media, there’s wood, glass. It’s a real nice mix of things.” And no two artists are alike. Spectators and patrons should expect an eclectic blend of subject matters across this array of talent.
But this isn’t just an event for the art savvy. To set the atmosphere and let everyone know what the Agora Art Fair is all about, efforts have been made to ensure there’s something for the whole family. There’s live music playing on two stages from local groups and bands. A beer and wine garden featuring local brews and wines. And art activities for kids and adults. Past kids’ activities include kits to fly and create kites as well as everything needed to make jewelry boxes. For adults, there have been artists guiding people through painting a small picture, and last year, people had the opportunity to paint a wine glass or beer stein.
Steven and Niki Russos, the Artistic Coordinator, put a lot of effort into keeping the event fresh. “In the interest of constant improvement of our art fair, I’d like to add something to it that, as people are walking into the art fair, sets the mood in a different and interesting way.” This year, there will be several renowned kite flyers performing Art in the Sky, and they bring more than just big pretty kites. “Some of them are horses that gallop. There are others that are geometric in design.” It’s going to be something that gets people from miles away to ask themselves “I wonder what’s going on over there?”
Now let’s say you find that one-of-a-kind piece you need to take home. It’s a somewhat heavy sculpture, and with all the people and tents set up, getting your car across the fair just doesn’t seem possible. The Fitchburg Lions Club has a solution: chauffeured golf carts. The Lions Club takes donations as payment to help people get to either end of the fair. It can be a leg-saver for some, and a convenient way to support a group dedicated to improving the community for others.
It all comes down to the spirit Steven and others have injected into this fine arts fair. “[It’s] art for the senses because you have music, you have visual art, you have kites up in the sky, you have local food creating their epicurean delights.” It’s our culture through the interpretations of the considerate. Take a day to engage in something profoundly universal concentrated into something uniquely Wisconsin.
The Agora Art Fair is at 5500 E. Cheryl Parkway in Fitchburg. It’s a one-day event taking place on Saturday, August 18, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Visit agoraartfair.com for more information.
Kyle Jacobson is a copy editor for Madison Essentials, and a writer and beer enthusiast (sometimes all at once) living in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.