It’s not easy getting into the Westport Fine Arts Festival.
Every year, organizers pick 175 artists from around the country. Every mid-July they fill Main Street with their painting, photography, sculpture, fiber, printmaking, mixed media, glass, ceramics, jewelry, wood and graphics.
Making the cut is tough. So is the juried competition that follows.
But the festival sponsor — the Westport Downtown Merchants Association — recognizes its responsibility to nurture up-and-coming artists too.
So this year — on July 20 and 21 — the 46th annual event will embrace artists you may not yet have heard about.
But with the Fine Arts Festival’s help, you certainly will.
The WDMA is partnering with the Drew Friedman Foundation and Silvermine Arts Center to highlight 3 young artists.
The Foundation — part of the bequest of the late downtown landlord, restaurateur and arts lover — will award one $3,000 prize, and two more of $1,000 each. Applicants are artists currently enrolled in MFA programs, or recent graduates of one.
The first prize winner in the Emerging Artists Program — chosen by a professional jury — will also be exhibited at Silvermine. The 97-year-old New Canaan organization encompasses an art school, educational programs, artists’ guild, permanent collection and 5 galleries.
This year’s Fine Arts Festival outreach also includes the Westport Library.
In recent years, the Festival coincided with the annual book sale on Jesup Green. Recognizing that the audiences for art and books often overlaps — and that the downtown venues are complementary too — both institutions have strengthened their ties.
Now — with the Library’s transformation project complete — the Fine Arts Festival will set up a tent on the riverwalk. The young artists’ work will be exhibited there on Friday night. There’s a reception in the library’s new café.
They’re invited too to the established artists’ Saturday night reception. Also honored there: several high school student artists, who will receive $5,000 Drew Friedman Foundation scholarships.
WDMA president Randy Herbertson and Silvermine board vice chair Robin Jaffee Frank are excited about the chance to encourage — and showcase — emerging artists.
Check out their work next month. In a few years, you can say “I knew them when.”
(For more information on the Fine Arts Festival, click here.)