If the weather’s getting warmer, you can be guaranteed there’s an art fair to attend somewhere in the Chicago area. But you’re not going to find many with world-class music, a cutting-edge fashion show, a community art project with hat-making as its premise, and all of it set in a quaint village center.

The only one with those qualities is the Riverside Arts Weekend (RAW), which will be held Saturday, May 17 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, May 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Guthrie Park (across Bloomingbank Road from the train station) in downtown Riverside.

“We thought, ‘What can we do to make RAW truly raw,'” said Jean Sussman, a village trustee and part of a core group of eight people who organize the event each year. Riverside Arts Weekend is a nonprofit 501c3 organization, which solicits sponsorships and donations to fund the event. “What do we mean when we say ‘the arts?'”

What the group has decided is that it means more than a juried art fair where artists sell visual art, like ceramics, paintings, jewelry, photography, glassware and sculpture — though there will be plenty of that as well.

According to Sussman, there will be 65 to 70 artists on hand each day selling their work. The lineup will be a bit different this year, since the RAW organizers enlisted a new event company to recruit artists. This year the show is being managed by Debbie Netter of D&W Events, a north suburban firm, which is also hosting the Deerfield Festival of Fine Arts and Autumn Harvest at Deer Park in 2014.

“One of the comments we heard is that people wanted to see a greater variety of artists from year to year,” said Sussman. “So the mix of artists will be different.”

But what makes RAW different are the other aspects of the event — like the runway fashion show, “Flicker,” which will feature the work of both professional and student designers.

Organizers Mary Ellen Park and Aberdeen Marsh-Ozga recruited the models for the show through two model calls and have run them through three rehearsals. The fashion-as-art show will take place at 1:45 p.m. on Sunday, May 18.

“It’s been very, very labor-intensive,” said Sussman of that aspect of RAW.

In addition, music will be a central element of RAW, with both local and national acts ranging in style from blues to soul to jazz to world music.

At 11:15 a.m. on Sunday, world-renowned Brazilian guitarist/vocalist Paulinho Garcia will bring Brazilian-tinged jazz to the stage, followed at 12:30 p.m. by Chicago jazz vocalist Petra van Nuis and guitarist Andy Brown.

Through Berwyn’s Harlem Avenue Lounge, Raw was able to secure sets by Chicago blues mainstay Studebaker John on Saturday and by Frank Bang and Rick King on Sunday. 

Saturday afternoon’s music lineup also features the Hauser Junior High Jazz Band, the Buddy Love Review, Fable and the Liz Berg Duo. Capping off Saturday’s lineup at 4 p.m. will be jazz saxophonist Brent Griffin.

The Riverside Arts Center will once again lead a free, hands-on community art project both days. Kids and adults can participate in a hat-making extravaganza, which will culminate with a parade of hats at the Sunday fashion show.

There will also be plenty to eat and drink at the beer garden, which will be located inside the park near the stage. Mollie’s Public House will sell beer and sangria along with wraps, watermelon balls and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. Empanadus will sell empanadas, salads and gelato, while Chocolate Twist and Aunt Diana’s will sell sweet treats. You can also buy a smoothie from Fruit Blend Smoothies or baked goods from St. Roger Abbey French Gourmet Patisserie.

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