Welcome to Cherrywood Art Fair, the longest-running not for profit art fair in East Austin!
Cherrywood Art Fair is an art filled two-day event showcasing local artists, live music, kids activities and great food in a free, family-friendly environment. More than 8,000 visitors stroll through the fairgrounds looking at art, listening to beautiful music and sampling some of Austin’s finest food trailer cuisine. Since its 2002 inception, the Fair has served as a destination for discerning holiday shoppers seeking unique and artful items from Texas artists and makers.
Proceeds benefit the Little Artist BIG ARTIST arts mentoring program that pairs East Austin elementary school students with professional artists. Cherrywood Art Fair and Little Artist BIG ARTIST programs are produced by Chula League.
Cherrywood Art Fair has its roots in a group of passionate art lovers who wanted to give Central Texas Artists a venue for sharing their original art with appreciative customers during the holiday season. At its conception, a small group of artists and musicians attracted a crowd, and a fourteen-year tradition was born.
Held at Asbury Methodist Church, the first Cherrywood Art Fair had a mere 10 artists paying $20 a piece for a one-day booth, 3 musicians, a bake sale, and modest neighborhood business sponsorships attracting 150 neighbors in attendance.
Based on initial success, the organizers decided to make the Fair an annual event. This second art fair was the inception of certain principles that are still the foundation of the Fair today: First, all original art, no manufactured goods, no junk, no kidding. Second, the Fair would be a free, family-friendly atmosphere where artists are treated like friends. Third, the venue moved to Maplewood Elementary School and a silent auction was added to raise money for the school. A new tradition was the remarkable Fair poster designed by Liz Potter. A website was created, and the Fair tripled in size.
Our third year brought many more applicants than available booth spaces, and Cherrywood Art Fair became a juried show. A new principle of achieving balance between media types was added to the Fair’s foundation. As the Fair grew another 30%, the need for more volunteer labor, and a better production structure became apparent. Sponsorships and auction donations totaled $1,000, and the auction brought in $1,300. Liz Potter produced another eye-catching poster.
As the Fair became an Austin institution, the need to formalize the production organization emerged. There was an opportunity to attract sponsors and donors, and those funds could be used to support the arts. A corporation was formed, Chula League, and non-profit status was applied for in 2005 and approved in 2006. Its mission was to produce the Fair and govern the use of the proceeds to benefit Maplewood and arts and landscapes in the surrounding neighborhoods. The effort to produce the Fair was substantial with an expansion to two fair days, and the new organization rose to the challenge. The Fair received favorable press in the Austin American-Statesman’s XLEnt, and attendance grew yet again.
This year an audience survey was introduced to help us learn more about how Texans perceive the Fair. People tend to come to the Fair in groups of twos and fours, and make the Fair a social event. They like the unique atmosphere of the Fair venue (in a school built in 1948), and the amazing atmosphere of community that permeates the event. They like to eat at the Fair, and often come back the second day to hear the amazing bands. And they love the retro posters, this one (and every one since) featuring a new logo and collage poster artwork by Melissa Gable at One Creative Girl.
A highly successful silent auction more than doubled in size in 2007. Proceeds from the silent auction were used to support Chula League art and artful public landscape projects with an increased portion reserved for the art and gardening programs at Maplewood elementary, in response to dwindling State support of public school art education. Maplewood students also sold salads and drinks to make money for a science trip.
The crowd attending the Fair continued to grow impressively with over 4,500 visitors. The number of artists also continued to grow, but the underlying principles did not change. As founder Kathy McTee writes, “Austin responds to quality! A good cause, good art, good times—this town has high standards. When people talk about how Austin is special and has a unique spirit and soul, I think this show represents the best of that.”
Artist applicants increased by a third matching the increase in customers. Production support for the Fair continued to improve, and launching the Fair has become a 9-month endeavor involving a large team of dedicated folks. This was the first year that proceeds from the Fair were used to benefit Chula League’s Little Artist BIG ARTIST mentoring program, pairing East Austin students with professional artists to experience the creative process from ideation through commercialization.
From inception in 2002 until 2009, there was little change in the cast of characters that produced the Cherrywood Art Fair. In 2010 an injection of new energy and ideas began, with the addition of some new Board members and new volunteers working shoulder to shoulder with veterans. The community spirit of the Fair continued unabated! The fair booth count remained at 80 artists with 9 bands and 4 food vendors.
The Chula League board agreed that 2011 would be a transition year for Cherrywood Art Fair. The 2011 Fair, our 10th anniversary event, was the largest and best ever, with over 100 artists, 11 bands, and 7,000 visitors. Under the leadership of Ed Arevalo, Fair results demonstrated that the essential qualities of the Fair were sufficiently established and future Fairs could be run by a professional event coordinator under the close supervision of Chula League.
The 2012 Fair was our most polished event yet, with professional management by Craftbox Agency, both indoor and outdoor music stages with 16 bands, 114 artists, and hands-on all ages activities like a Lomography photo workshop and origami with Creative Action. Under the leadership of Event Chair Rick Hernandez, our community profile increased with a radio spot on KUT and VIP appearances by city leaders. The little Fair started by a handful of artists and art lovers and nurtured with love and dedication has grown into an Austin tradition not to be missed!
The Cherrywood Art Fair returned to a smaller number of artists this year but was still packed with a fantastic selection of locally produced art & crafts. However, the Fair continued to grow in 2013 due to a smart fair layout that provided plenty of space for guests, a Parking Shuttle, expanded musical performances that included Money Chicha and some of Austin’s hottest teen bands, and an amazing performance by Flamencura Music & Dance. Event Chair Rick ‘Daddy’ McNulty of Koop & KUT fame was instrumental in spreading the word about the Fair by faccillitating PSA development, radio interviews & serving as Emcee of the Music Stage.
The event was produced to perfection once again by Craftbox Agency and our hardworking staff and volunteers. It was a cold year but our artists and staff broke out the hats & gloves and stayed warm with lots of hot coffee provided by Cherrywood Coffee House & Thunderbird. Hot food by some of Austin’s best food vendors kept our guests and shoppers warm while indoor art activities kept the kiddos happy. Finally, we expanded community & guest awareness of the Little Artist BIG ARTIST Program by prominently featuring & promoting silent auction artwork produced by the children in the program.
While the weather was mild in 2014 (thank you weather fairies!) – it was a very strong year for Cherrywood Art Fair overall. Cultivate PR and Event Co-chairs Celeste Quesada & Adrian Quesada did an ahhhMAZing job of promoting the Fair to greater Austin and the surrounding communities thru savvy PR opportunities such as partnering with the W Hotel on a ‘first glance’ pop up event, by working with E.A.S.T. artists to promote the event and by including the fair in online media and trendsetting magazines such as Austin Way. While their focus was definitely on ensuring that everyone in Austin knew about the Cherrywood Art Fair, Producer Pati Shampton ensured that that the fair followed best practices on the production side. Guest shoppers, performers and artists all agreed that our little gem of a fair was one of the hottest, shopportunities in town. We are super-proud of our accomplishments but we also know that we are only as good as the volunteers and staff that help out year after year. And oh boy, our volunteers and staff were insanely talented and dedicated this year!
At our core – we are an art fair and we never want to stray too far from that. But it has been a pleasure to also introduce food artisans, community partners and artistic performers into the mix. By offering opportunities for snacks, play, community awareness, and local music, Cherrywood Art Fair transforms into something magical and uniquely East Austin. We hope you feel the same and join us again in 2015 for more surprises, amazing artists and great family fun.
We want to thank all of the veteran staff team members (past and present) responsible for producing the Cherrywood Art Fair. Without you, none of this would have been possible:
Kathleen McTee, Priscilla Boston, Rebecca Kohout, Jane Walton, Marilyn Fenn, Liz Potter, Melissa Gable, Audrey Gray, Cynthia Ballesteros, Maddie Kadas, Kelly Miles, Rick Behal, Jennifer Elsner, Erika Allbright, Julie Bernal, Holli Brown, Wendy Morgan, Scheleen Walker, Kay McManus, Beth Been, Mary Evelyn Daugherty, Ed Arevalo, Sherri Whitmarsh, Celeste Quesada, Pati Shampton and many others!