Naperville Water Street District to debut new art fair in July

Naperville is well-versed in art fairs. Annually, summer into early autumn brings two large shows to the city, both attracting artists near and far to exhibit their work for thousands of visitors.

But this year, a new, more intimate event is coming to Naperville’s art fair scene.

The Naperville Water Street District is launching an inaugural fine art and fine craft fair. The one-day event, set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 14, will stretch along Water and Webster streets in downtown Naperville, just a stone’s throw from the Naperville Riverwalk.

About 35 artists will compose the first-year lineup, descending from areas in and around DuPage, Will and Kane counties. The idea, Water Street District spokeswoman Deb Newman said, is to create a leisurely event that “really features local artists.”

“This is for the folks that may not travel to other cities to do other shows and may not be out in that whole world of doing shows all over the place,” said Newman, who is organizing the event on behalf of Water Street and its developer, Marquette Cos. “This is kind of a unique local opportunity.”

Naperville’s traditional art events are the Naperville Woman’s Club’s Fine Art and Artisan Fair at Naper Settlement in June and the Naperville Art League River Walk Fine Art Fair in September.

The Woman’s Club show is the longest-running art fair in Illinois, with this year being its 64th installation. Featuring artforms from sculpture to jewelry, the fair brings together more than 100 artists from across the country.

Naperville Art League’s event likewise presents artists from coast to coast — sometimes even overseas. The league, which will hold its 39th fair in September, says its annual show boasts some 45,000 attendees.

Newman said she doesn’t expect Water Street’s show to compete with either of the standing art fairs. Her hope is to make space for regional artists to showcase their work close to home.

“It’s our goal to just create a lovely Sunday afternoon in July along Water Street and the Riverwalk,” she said.

Applications for the Water Street fair went out last week. The window to apply is open through May 15.

A jury of three professional artists will select 30 to 35 applicants to participate. A variety of media — painting, drawing, sculpture, fiber, graphics, mixed media, photography, pottery, metalwork, glass, wood and digital art — is being sought, Newman said.

“As long as it is what the jury considers to be fine arts, we expect to see a good showing of everything,” she said.

To circulate the call to apply, Newman said she’s been working with area art leagues — organizations made up of local artists that support and encourage visual arts — to ensure Water Street reaches a wide range of potential applicants.

She’s been working closely with the Naperville Art League in particular, she said. The organization, adept at art fair organizing after years of putting its Riverwalk show together, has been a “great source of advice,” Newman said.

She added that Debbie Venezia, who organizes the League’s Riverwalk fair, also has been an instrumental resource in bringing Water Street’s show to fruition.

“(Debbie) has really shepherded me through this process,” Newman said.

Venezia said Tuesday that “any time there’s a new art event,” she “really is happy to promote it.”

For 15 years, Venezia was the executive director of the Naperville Art League and for the past seven she’s been director of Arts DuPage, a countywide arts council that “supports, promotes, advocates for and distributes grants to the arts,” she said.

Speaking to Water Street’s new fair, Venezia said she welcomes any chance to “reinforce the arts.”

“I’m excited at the prospect of bringing more art to the community and keeping it local and inviting people to come out,” she said.

More information and artist applications for the first annual Water Street fair can be found at