Smile Politely

West Side Arts was the perfect kid-friendly arts event

Wide view of West Side Arts; food trucks are visible on the right with tents set up towards the back
Serenity Stanton Orengo

After rain took center stage at Crystal Lake Arts Fair, I was hopeful that West Side Arts wouldn’t suffer the same fate. Luckily, the weather was perfect for the second year of this juried art fair hosted by 40 North and Champaign Park District. Held at West Side Park, this year’s fair featured 26 artists representing a range of art forms: ceramics, mixed media, photography, painting, illustration, woodworking, jewelry, fiber, and glass. While there were some familiar faces from Crystal Lake Arts Fair and other art events in Champaign-Urbana, there were several new-to-me artists as well.

Inflatable slides are set up on the right, on the left are art tents.
Serenity Stanton Orengo

I was pleasantly surprised by how kid-friendly the event was. The fair had huge inflatable slides, face painting, a balloon artist, a painting craft, sidewalk chalk contest, and a bubble tent set up for the kids to enjoy. Only the sidewalk chalk contest was advertised ahead of time, to my knowledge, and even that wasn’t mentioned on the Facebook event page. They really kept the focus in the promotions, deliberately it seems, on the art, which makes sense. Even still, I think advertising these additional draws may bring in more families who may otherwise be nervous about taking their kids to an event filled with art.

a red tent with bubble wands and buckets of bubble solution
Serenity Stanton Orengo

There were also two food trucks on site: Burrito King and Garro’s Taste of the City (winner of our Best new food truck in 2022). I got the King Nachos from Burrito King, an always favorite. There were plenty of people enjoying the food on the many benches, at the playground, and even laying out in the grass. It was really a picturesque gathering. Regrettably, my nachos were enjoyed in the car thanks to an over-tired toddler meltdown (parents can relate).

Food trucks are lined up in the grass with the art fair visible in the back
Serenity Stanton Orengo

The main draw, of course, was the art. Fraya Replinger was showcasing her beautiful photography. Current Artist of the corridor Anna Gutsch’s jewelry brand Pipapo was also present.

colorful earrings on white cards are displayed
Jewelry by Pipapo; photo by Serenity Stanton Orengo

One of the new-to-me artists was Barry Callahan of ARaisedBanner. He had this cool double sided painting that spun on an axis. You can see the video of it in action on his Instagram. He also had mixed media skateboards and canvases.

Double sided painting stands vertically on a black stand on a table. Gold frame with turquoise background; there is a man's face in the center, but only the bottom half of the face is drawn
ARaisedBanner (Barry Callahan), The Book Ends of History, Acrylic, spray paint, and collage, Double-sided painting on triple framed glass (2023); photo by Serenity Stanton Orengo
mixed media art on skateboards, canvas, and in glass. Most feature images of a man's face that is partially obscured.
Art by Barry Callahan; photograph by Serenity Stanton Orengo

Allie Janae was present with her glass pieces. I especially loved the middle hanging piece that featured a cute dinosaur.

three round stained-glass pieces hang from the tent bar.
Glass by Allie Janae; photo by Serenity Stanton Orengo

I’ve been following Sara Jahn since I saw her skull paintings at Crystal Lake Arts Fair. I loved this new piece she brought, appropriately titled A Cause for Celebration. She frequently posts progress updates of what she is working on on her Instagram, if you want to see the many layers involved with a piece like this coming together.

realist painting of letter balloons spelling "OK" in a black frame
Sara Jahn, A Cause for Celebration; photo by Serenity Stanton Orengo

I was especially excited to finally get a chance to see High in Fiber Rugs in person. Brittany Heyen’s creations are very cute and very creative. Keep an eye out for an interview with Heyen later this week.

an assortment of high in fiber mini rugs and stickers are on a table, including a multistack of rugs that resemble a hamburger
High in Fiber Rugs; photograph by Serenity Stanton Orengo
two rugs are displayed on a metal vertical display: left is a donut, right is a hot dog
High in Fiber Rugs; photograph by Serenity Stanton Orengo

Overall this was a well-organized and well-attended event. The art was showcased and front and center, but the additional activities for kids, combined with the superb weather and great location really brought this art fair to the next level. I’m already looking forward to next year. Check out some more photos from the event below.

an assortment of metal art creations created with Harley Davidson parts
Metal creations by Art by Dirt; photo by Serenity Stanton Orengo
an assortment of colorful bowls
Pottery by Carly Morrison Clay; photo by Serenity Stanton Orengo
a cloth covered table outside with flowers in a a vase on the right, paintings set up on the table and on the ground in front
Art by Maryam Ghadiri; photo by Serenity Stanton Orengo
Displayed colorful prints and canvases featuring exaggerated alien-like bodies
Art by Ralph Roether; photo by Serenity Stanton Orengo

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