After months of speculation, Riverside will indeed host an art fair this summer after a six-year absence. Trustees on May 2 approved providing up-front funding for an art fair that has been scheduled for Aug. 27 and 28 in Guthrie Park and along Bloomingbank Road near the train station in downtown Riverside.
The fair will also feature a Chalkfest event, where artists will create a work of art during the fair, which will be available for sale at the fair’s end. The artwork will be created on pieces of masonite placed along the sidewalk, creating a patchwork ribbon of original designs.
“This is going to be one of the neatest things going,” said William Kernan, chairman of the Riverside Economic Development Commission which has been exploring the idea since last September, when resident Donald Spatny pitched the Chalkfest concept to commissioners.
While commissioners were enthusiastic about the idea from the start, they were unsure how to get the Chalkfest off the ground. Riverfest, a previous village-sponsored art fair, ran aground in 1998 due to costs and personnel issues.
But commissioners feel that both of those issues have been solved by hiring a special events company to oversee all aspects of the art fair. Chicago Special Events, the same company that manages Brookfest every summer in neighboring Brookfield, will do everything from recruiting artists and art judges to obtaining event sponsorship and marketing the art fair.
Riverside will pay Chicago Special Events a flat management fee of $7,000 for organizing the event. That cost will be split between the village and the Riverside Township Chamber of Commerce. Getting the Chamber to sign on was a key for village trustees, who earlier expressed an unwillingness to shoulder the entire cost.
EDC member Olga Sylvester, who is also treasurer for the Riverside Chamber of Commerce, sold the idea of splitting the management fee to chamber members.
“There was no way the chamber wasn’t going to do this,” Sylvester said. “I think this is what the town needs. Every village has a niche, and I think this could be a niche for Riverside. It can bring in outside people to find out what Riverside is all about.”
Beyond the $7,000 management fee, the village will be on the hook for fronting a good deal of the approximately $35,000 it’s estimated to put on the fair. That cash outlay, however, is expected to be balanced by fees to artists and vendors and by event sponsorships, which Chicago Special Events hopes will amount to some $20,000.
According to numbers provided by Chicago Special Events, the event could end up making as much as $9,500 or losing nearly $4,000 depending on circumstances such as bad weather.
Trustee William Scanlon said that while he was in favor of the art fair, he wanted trustees to be clear that the village could wind up losing money on the event.
“I have some discomfort about some of the numbers,” Scanlon said. “It’s possible that level [of revenue] might not be achieved.”
Village Manager Kathleen Rush agreed that the numbers provided by Chicago Special Events were simply estimates, but stressed that the company has significant experience in organizing art fairs and wants to be asked back to manage future events.
“While with any such endeavor there’s a potential for a loss, we’ve taken every step to try to minimize a loss to the village,” said Trustee Kevin Smith, who serves as the board’s liaison to the EDC. “It’s a step toward the village having a different kind of art fair.”