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Old Town, Wells Street Art Fairs Go Head To Head

By Ted Cox | June 7, 2017 6:14am | Updated on June 9, 2017 8:29am
 The Old Town Art Fair is celebrating its 69th year this weekend.
The Old Town Art Fair is celebrating its 69th year this weekend.
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Old Town Art Fair

OLD TOWN TRIANGLE — As usual, the Old Town Art Fair and the Wells Street Art Festival go head to head this weekend.

They're similar and close together, and you might think they're one big art fest. But you'd be wrong.

The Old Town Art Fair is the more established of the two. Now in its 69th year, it's held by the Old Town Triangle Association, 1763 N. North Park Ave., and includes 250 artists exhibiting for an estimated 30,000 visitors over Saturday and Sunday.

It's basically bordered by Sedgwick, Menomonee and Wisconsin streets and Lincoln Park West, with the main gate at Wisconsin and Lincoln Avenue. Admission is $10 for adults, children free. Hours are 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.

 Wells Street Art Fest in Old Town Saturday.
Wells Street Art Fest in Old Town Saturday.
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DNAinfo/Quinn Ford

It also includes a garden walk, with about 50 Old Town Triangle households throwing open their backyard gardens for visitors. The Edgar Miller Legacy welcomes visitors to the Kogen-Miller Studios courtyard at 1734 N. Wells St., but only on Sunday, not Saturday.

Proceeds benefit the Old Town Triangle Association, the Menomonee Club and local schools including LaSalle Language Academy, which offers parking for exhibitors, and the Franklin Fine Arts Center, among other organizations.

The upstart Wells Street Art Festival is about 25 years younger, which still puts it in its mid-40s. Even so, it's said to attract a younger crowd, boasting an estimated 50,000 visitors, with 225 juried artists. It runs later into the night, from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

It takes place on Wells Street between North Avenue and Division Street, where the main gates are located. The Old Town Merchants and Residents Association holds it, with a "suggested donation" of $7, and like the Old Town Triangle Association it distributes proceeds to local schools and cultural and public-service organizations, estimating it has contributed more than $335,000 over the last 20 years.

The Old Town Art Fair boasts a music lineup including "a little jazz, a little swing, folk, fusion and blues," while Wells Street claims a more conventional array of street-fest acts, even as it also makes time both days for performances by the Jesse White Tumblers.

Both offer abundant options for food and drink, although Wells Street has the more numerous restaurants and bars along its strip.

For the second year in a row, the Old Town Art Fair was named the best in the country by the readers of artfaircalendar.com, which also named Chicago America's best city for art fairs without mentioning Wells Street among its top 50.