There's nothing like being there when something happens for the first time. You know your support matters. That you helped make it a success. And when it returns the following year, and the year after that, you can say you were part of its history. Such is the case with West Side Arts 2022, which made its debut on Saturday, September 17th. Maddie and I stopped by this new festival, she to capture the day in photos, and me to check out the vibe, the reaction, and, of course, to shop. Here's a look at what we saw and learned. 


Photo of people walking through West Side Park looking at the various art tents.
Photo by Maddie Rice.

With its existing pathways, benches, and old growth trees, West Side Park is the perfect spot for a community event or art fair. While the temps were still high for mid-September, it was definitely a more comfortable experience for the artists and the shoppers than last month's Crystal Lake Park Art Fair. 

A selection of illustration prints in boxes. The one up front is a close-up of a cat.
Photo by Maddie Rice.

The mix was pretty diverse, with something for all ages, tastes, and budgets. Artist Jenny Elkins brought the catittude with her whimsical prints and printed clothing. 

A photo of handmade gemstone earrings hanging on a rack.
Photo by Maddie Rice.

Jewelry by William Williston featured an array of colors and textures with a focus on gemstones. 

A table filled with gemstone earrings.
Photo by Maddie Rice.

One of the best parts of attending a new local art fair is discovering artists you haven't encountered before. 

A visitor with a bike helmet looking at a variety of illustrated prints hanging on the inside wall of a tent.
Photo by Maddie Rice.

Artist Christopher Reme's booth was filled his dynamic illustrations

Ceramic artist Carly Morrison standing in front of her work at her booth.
Photo by Maddie Rice.

Ceramic artist Carly Morrison offered a selection of functional and fun work including these Jack O'Lantern-style candle holders. 

 display of hand made earrings on a long table in West Side Park.
Photo from the Champaign Park District Facebook page.

West Side Arts also attracted artists whose work will be familiar to Smile Politely arts readers. Pipapo, which I learned means "all the bells and whistles" was a popular stop during my visit. They displayed a gorgeous sampling of earrings, ranging from delicately detailed birds to larger organic shapes painted in bright and bold colors. Best of all was the story of how the pieces were made (with laser cut birch wood that is hand painted) and the promise of how special they would make you feel when you wore them. 

A large canvas tent filled with paintings of women's heads with whimsical designs in them.
Photo from the Champaign Park District Facebook page.

Cindy Sampson arrived with her bold mixed media women, including some moonlight themed pieces that continue to haunt me in the best possible way. Sampson also had t-shirts showcasing her flower girl (see above, top left) which offered a more accessible price point. 

A group of colorfully painted rocks and fluorescent sunglasses on brown craft paper.
Photo by Maddie Rice.

West Side Arts, like Crystal Lake Park Art Fair, was a collab between 40 North and the Park District. Champaign Park District had a variety of interactive activities for young art lovers, including a sidewalk chalk art contest. 

Close-up photo of a sidewalk chalk drawing of fish and sea creatures.
Photo by Maddie Rice.

Together, this combination of expertise and resources is what makes an arts fair an event. 

A mother and daughter standing at West Side Park holding a caricature drawing with a large painted canvas portrait of Sponge Bob Squarepants behind them.
Photo by Maddie Rice.

A large-sized SpongeBob painting was created live by Cody Shinker. Caricaturist Dan Wild was on the scene to offer folks a memory of the day. Kudos to all who exhibited and all who supported West Side Arts' debut. And let's do it again next year.

West Side Arts 2022
September 17th,10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
West Side Park
Downtown Champaign

Top photo by Maddie Rice.