Aurora residents Jeff and Pat Butler were surprised at how packed things were at Downer Place Saturday morning as they checked out tents filled with art as well as food vendors up and down the street.
“We have come to this art fair before. It’s a beautiful day and I love looking at all the different crafts,” said Pat. “I like how big and spread out this is and it’s great for downtown Aurora.”
One of the area’s largest local art festivals filled the Water Street Mall as well as the Downer in downtown Aurora on Saturday as the 12th Alley Art Festival returned, starting at noon.
First held in 2010, the festival continues to be held on the last Saturday in August, sponsored by the Aurora Downtown group.
The five-hour grassroots arts festival offered an expanded format with more than 70 artists along with belly dancing, live music, food trucks and children’s attractions ranging from face painting to robotics.
In a press release, Aurora Downtown manager Marissa Amoni said the group is “excited to grow the festival over the past ten years. The Alley Art Festival makes art accessible to everyone. It’s a fun afternoon filled with art. It’s also an opportunity to buy art, get inspired and connect with the artist community.”
The annual festival highlights local art, jewelry, pottery, handmade goods and more. It provides an opportunity to meet and support local artists, Amoni said.
Pat Butler said her favorite art mediums include watercolors and ceramics.
“I’ve been known to come home from one of these things with something,” Butler said.
Jeff Butler said he brought his portfolio and that his wife considers him more of the artist in the family.
“I’m following my wife—I’m holding,” he said. “I am also an artist. I try to do some art, but I don’t do enough, but I appreciate all the different art forms and all the different things you see here. I really like the expanded format and it looks much nicer and much more open. I was a little surprised to see how much this is taking over the streets. It’s good.”
Artists like Aurora’s Christopher Lucero, 31, said he is an art fair veteran and like the Butlers likes the expanded format.
“Before, it was just an alley and now we are on the street and on the corner. I think it’s wonderful,” he said. “With the farmers market next to us, there’s been a lot of spread.”
Lucero said he enjoys doing the sugar skull portraits and has been painting for “eight or nine years.”
“It wasn’t until I started high school that I really got into art,” he said.
Another local artist at this year’s fair was Elizabeth French, who said this was her second year at the festival.
One of her paintings is a work that portrays the center of Aurora.
“I started (the painting) in the winter of 2020 and finished it in 2021,” she said. “This is the biggest painting I’ve done to date. I used to paint theater scenes and large-scale things, but the details of this took me about four to five months.”
Visitors like Rachel Giblin of Aurora said she has come to the festival three other times and that she and her husband “are part of the arts community here.”
“My husband is a songwriter and so we’re kind of related,” she said. “I also like the visual arts. I love watercolor and ink art. This happened to us today – we were going to buy coffee and we saw all the people.”
Elizabeth Gausselin of Downers Grove came with her mother Debbie who said it was their first visit to the art festival and they planned to give it a good look.
“We were visiting some thrift stores and saw this and so we stopped,” Elizabeth Gausselin said. “I like the arts. Move here and there. I’ve been known to buy a few things.”
David Sharos is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.