Color, music will again fill Bush’s Pasture Park as Art Fair returns

Customers browse at the 2019 Salem Art Fair (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)

Salem art lovers are in for more sun when the annual Salem Art Fair and Festival makes a long-awaited return this weekend.

The 2022 event, sponsored by Salem Art Association, runs July 15-17 in Bush’s Pasture Park, returning to its signature location after two years of a scaled-back, virtual event.

“The fact that it’s live and in person, it’s a big deal for the artists and for the community. Many of these artists earn a living through fairs like this,” said Matthew Boulay, executive director of the art association.

About 200 artists will have booths showing jewelry, mixed media, fiber arts, paintings, metalwork and more. Most are from the Northwest, but artists come from as far away as Georgia.

In past years, the festival has been held along the park’s main path under the shade of large oak trees. But city efforts to better preserve the park’s trees, which sustained severe damage during the 2021 ice storm, led to some changes in the venue, city parks department spokesman Trevor Smith said.

Now, booths will be out in the pasture along Southeast High Street, and tents will be secured with weights rather than staked out to avoid damaging roots. Vendors won’t be allowed to park vehicles in the park except on the paved soapbox derby track.

Boulay said the art association was happy to make the changes to help preserve the park’s white oak, noting that artists are generally fond of trees.

“Many of us (growing) up, first thing we ever drew was a tree,” he said.

Boulay said to compensate for the lack of shade, the festival is taking umbrella tables, providing water for attendees and has “industrial sized misters.” The Bush Barn Art Center, the association’s gallery and office, will remain open during the fair for people to browse or just take a break from the sun.

The association has taken steps this year to make the festival more inviting and accessible to everyone, Boulay said. That’s meant replacing a traditional 6-foot fence along High Street with a lower white picket fence.

“It felt more like a place to stay out of rather than a fair for the public to go into,” he said of previous fences.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for teens daily, or $20 and $10, respectively, for a weekend pass, and can be purchased online in advance or at the festival with a credit card or cash. But there are more free options than ever — children 13 and under, art association members, Oregon foster families and anyone receiving state food benefits with an Oregon Trail card can get in free.

The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a concert from 7:30 to 9 p.m., and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Food vendors will be available, and wine and beer can be bought and consumed while walking around the festival.

A children’s area is also separated from the main festival with free activities including face painting, rock art, storytelling, a bouncy castle and a children’s stage with performances. That means parents don’t have to spend money just to take their kids to the children’s portion of the festival.

The Mission Street Parks Conservancy will hold their annual plant sale under the trees near the Bush Barn Art Center. Plant sale hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Two other stages will showcase musical performances and cultural activities, and a live mural painting will take place over the course of the weekend in the pasture.

Because of limited parking in the neighborhood, shuttles will run from parking lots at South Salem High School, 1910 Church St. S.E., and the SAIF Corporation parking lot, 400 High St. S.E.

Prior to the pandemic, the art fair typically drew 30,000 to 35,000 people to the park over the weekend. It’s a major source of funds for the art association, accounting for about 40% of revenue in a typical year, Boulay said.

Though attendance always depends on weather, Boulay said he’s hopeful the event will meet or exceed that benchmark. 

“We think demand is going to be higher than ever because folks, there’s sort of this pent-up demand for events like this,” he said.  “We certainly hope to be right there and we’ve got capacity for more than that.”

A full schedule of events, vendor list and more information is available on the art fair website.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

JUST THE FACTS, FOR SALEM – We report on your community with care and depth, fairness and accuracy. Get local news that matters to you. Subscribe to Salem Reporter starting at $5 a month. Click I want to subscribe!

Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.