In 1949, a group of less than 10 artists hung their work from clotheslines as a way to show off their work and expose Salem to art.
What began decades ago has transformed into a three-day festival that draws more than 35,000 people each year.
More than 200 artists, half being from Oregon, will once again gather at Bush’s Pasture Park for the 69th Annual Salem Art Fair and Festival, running from July 20-22.
The festival is a celebration of art in all forms, including visual and performing, while also functioning as a fundraiser for the Salem Art Association’s non-profit programs.
More than 30 musical, theater and dance performance will take place on multiple stages, including the Smiles Dental Stage located in a natural amphitheater setting.
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Bush’s Pasture Park will also feature other festival favorites including vendors, food and drink booths, a plant sale, beer and wine gardens from Gilgamesh Brewing and other family-friendly activities.
James O’Shea, marketing manager of Salem Art Association, said that with so much to do it can be easy to stay at the festival for hours.
“It’s nice on a warm day to grab a cold beer then wander around and take in all the art, or sit down on the grass and listen to some music,” he said.
Each year, a committee chooses a Memorabilia Artist from past Salem Art Fair and Festival participants.
Barton DeGraaf, of Bend, was chosen to create this year’s Memorabilia piece, which will be featured on limited-edition posters, t-shirts and tote bags sold at the fair.
DeGraaf has been painting for his whole life. In 1999, he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver.
Art was always the plan, he said, but it wasn’t until the birth of his son in 2006 when DeGraaf quit his job as a sales representative and decided to pursue art full-time.
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His preferred medium is paint, specifically acrylic, which he uses to create “whimsical” pieces in his unique style. Over time, he shifted from drawing city and landscapes to frogs and ravens, which he continues to focus on today.
DeGraaf said that his Memorabilia piece, “Dog Days,” was specifically created to represent the Salem Art Fair and Festival.
“Something playful, something fun, something that is like, art in the park,” he said. “It was really about making it about Salem.”
Going into his eighth year, DeGraaf will be one of 213 artists at the fair this year, with mediums ranging from painting to sculpting to jewelry.
O’Shea said a number of artists will be creating art in their tents at the fair, and visitors are always encouraged to ask them about their process.
At 18-years-old, Macey Trussell has formed an impressive resume – actor, singer, dancer, director and playwright – all before graduating from West Salem High School as the salutatorian this past May.
What began as voice lessons 10 years ago turned into a journey of theatrical growth that lead her to Children’s Educational Theatre, a program that provides children in the Mid-Valley with theater experiences.
Now in her sixth year with the program, Trussell has gained confidence in performing, honed her skills and ventured into parts of the theater she hadn’t before, like stepping off the stage and working behind the scenes.
She also learned about the importance of teamwork and helping to build confidence in others.
“It has been by far the most accepting and friendly and loving community that I have been a part of,” she said.
Trussell plans to continue following her passion while attending Oklahoma City University this fall to pursue a degree in musical theater and vocal performance.
The plan? To act and perform musical theater professionally, she said. But, her time with the Children’s Educational Theatre has awakened another passion – passing down her knowledge to younger generations.
“I would like to, at some point in my life, continue with theater education,” she said. “When I became a TA, I recognized how amazing of an opportunity it was for me.”
Children’s Educational Theatre will be putting on the only theater performances at the Salem Art Fair and Festival this year.
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Their production of “The Prince and the Pauper” will take place on the Smiles Dental Stage at noon all three days. Other performances including the Children’s Educational Theatre Mime Troupe and beginning improv will be at the Family Stage.
Although Trussell will not be performing at the art fair, she looks forward to attending and supporting her friends.
“(The art fair) provides a venue for local artists to show off their work,” she said. “Not only visual artists that create paintings and sculptures and those wonderful things, but it also allows performing artists to show off, too.”
Dan Wetzel and Kristen Grainger have been in bands for most of their lives, performing in and around Salem separately.
But, like a good love song, music is what would bring them together. The two got married in 2001.
While performing as a duo, Wetzel and Grainger went to a bluegrass show in Portland in 2003, which inspired them to pull together four more members and form a band – True North.
Over the last 15 years, True North has seen members come and go, produced five-recording projects and created a name for themselves in and out of Salem.
Wetzel said that they would not consider themselves a traditional bluegrass band, but more contemporary bluegrass. On national charts, they are considered contemporary folk.
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“What we love are bluegrass instruments, their organic sound,” Grainger said. “We do not have drums or electric instruments; we amplify acoustic instruments.”
True North’s most recent album, “Open Road, Broken Heart,” primarily features original songs written by Grainger.
Two tracks on the album, “One Way Ticket” and “Ratio of Angels to Demons,” would end up winning her the Wildflower! Arts & Music Festival Al Johnson Performing Songwriter Contest this past May.
Out of six national songwriting competitions she has been a finalist in, Grainger has won half.
True North will perform at the art fair this year for the third time, but for the first time with their current configuration featuring Martin Stevens and Josh Adkins.
Make sure to catch True North performing on the Smiles Dental Stage from 3 to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 21.
Other performances include festival headliners The California Honeydrops and Jelly Bread. Visit salemart.org/art-fair/entertainment for the full entertainment schedule.
Abby Luschei is the entertainment reporter for the Statesman Journal; she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-399-6747. Follow her on Twitter @abbyluschei or facebook.com/luscheiabby.
If you go
What: The 69th Annual Salem Art Fair & Festival features more than 200 artists, live music and entertainment, family-friendly activities, craft beer and wine, local food vendors, community organization booths, and a plant sale.
When: Friday to Sunday, July 20-22
Location: Bush’s Pasture Park, 600 Mission St. SE, Salem
Cost: $10-weekend pass, $5-day pass, free for those 16 and younger and Oregon Trail Card members, free for everyone 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday