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When Amy Amdur was 5 years old, she entered an art show on the North Shore with a piece that she had painted in a local art class. Entering that art show had a “profound impression” on her, she says—and it’s one of the reasons that the North Shore today boasts a number of fine arts festivals this summer, all organized by Amdur’s event production company.
Amdur Productions organizes several arts-themed summer events in the North Shore and surrounding suburbs, including the Chicago Botanic Garden Art Festival (July 6–8), the North Shore Festival of Art at Old Orchard (July 27–29), the Glencoe Festival of Art (August 4–5), and the Port Clinton Art Festival and Taste of Highland Park (August 25–26). Each art festival has its own personality, but they all have at least a few things in common: They attract both local and national artists, and they are all juried by a panel of art professionals. They also all feature art in six basic categories ranging from jewelry, painting, two-dimensional art (like pastels or mixed media), photography, and functional (think: beautifully handmade furniture) and nonfunctional (think: the perfect sculpture for your garden) three-dimensional art.
With roots in the North Shore that go back four generations, “I take the North Shore very personally,” says Amdur. A graduate of Highland Park High School and Northwestern University, Amdur’s commitment to these neighborhoods, and to art, isn’t something to be taken lightly. “Nothing thrills me more than when I walk into somebody’s home and see art I know they’ve purchased at one of these festivals,” she says.
Each of these mid- and late-summer art festivals begins more than half a year in advance. By the December prior, the hopeful artists are busy submitting four slides of their work to be reviewed by a panel of art professionals. Those 17 judges include artists, curators, gallery owners, and community members who gather the following January to examine and score each artist’s submission. The panel—which includes local luminaries like Buffalo Grove Arts Commissioner Sharon Borstein and award-winning Taos-based artist Dick Herrman—invites only those artists with the highest scores. Every year, the artists have a fresh chance of getting accepted: The only artists who are invited back without having to reapply are the previous year’s award winners. If an artist is accepted, he or she must promise to be there in person. “It’s important,” says Amdur, “for the artist to be able to interact directly with the public.”
Each of the art festivals is full of surprises, from art-themed scavenger hunts for the kids to handmade furniture to hand-dyed silk. Every festival is a free-admission event, and price points range from $25 handmade paperweights to $25,000 monumental sculptures. (It’s also worth noting that art delivery is available at each of the shows, so you don’t have to worry about how you’ll get your new Fredrick Prescott steel seahorse sculpture home). Although she’s been in the business of art festivals for three decades, and even though she’s closely involved with the artist selection process, Amdur still finds something new in each festival. “Every year, I can’t wait to walk the shows myself,” she says.
Information about these area art festivals—and many more—can be found online at amdurproductions.com.
—Laura M. Browning