Art Affair

Pageant of the Masters (Photo by Nicola Salva)

Summer festivals abound from coast to coast, showcasing the finest visual displays and live performances from talented artists.

By Sharon Stello


As the weather warms, festival season also heats up with exhibitions of fine art and performance pieces across the nation. Some events take place in picturesque parks, while others bring the cultural celebration to iconic theaters and exhibit spaces. Whether visitors are seeking to invest in one-of-a-kind artwork or attend an exclusive performance, there’s a festival for every connoisseur. Several events also offer attendees the opportunity to witness artists at work, from glass blowers to painters, or tap into their inner artist with hands-on activities. With so many festivals in top cities this summer, travelers may want to cultivate an itinerary dedicated exclusively to the exploration of the arts.


Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters

July 9 – Aug. 30; Laguna Beach, Calif.

One of the nation’s oldest—it debuted more than 80 years ago—and most highly acclaimed juried fine art shows, the Festival of Arts boasts the work of 140 award-winning Orange County artists.

Pageant of the Masters (Photo by Nicola Salva)
Pageant of the Masters (Photo by Nicola Salva)

The show presents paintings, photographs, sculpture, jewelry, handcrafted wood and furniture items, ceramics, glass and more. In addition to perusing the artwork, visitors may attend special events such as Family Art Day, jazz concerts, the Sunday in the Park music series, jazz paired with wine and chocolate tastings, and Art of Cooking demonstrations by notable local chefs.

Hosted in conjunction with the festival, Pageant of the Masters runs from July 9 to Aug. 30 in the on-site outdoor amphitheater. The 90-minute show of “tableaux vivants,” or living pictures, features cast members in elaborate costumes posing to re-create famous paintings accompanied by live narration and a professional orchestra. This year’s show, “The Art Detective,” is inspired by works of art like Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch,” Botticelli’s “Primavera” and others, highlighting how creative riddles were unraveled, lost treasures discovered and crimes of passion uncovered. (


Lincoln Center Festival

July 7 – Aug. 16; New York City

In a monthlong celebration of performing arts, the Lincoln Center presents renowned dance, theater, opera and music in Manhattan. Since starting in 1996, the festival has showcased an eclectic mix of artists and productions representing more than 50 countries.

(©Damir Yusupov-Bolshoi Theatre)
“Don Quixote” by The Bolshoi Ballet, coming to the Lincoln Center Festival (©Damir Yusupov-Bolshoi Theatre)

Leading this year’s lineup is Japanese Kabuki theater company Heisei Nakamura-za, presenting a rarely performed 19th-century story, “Kaidan Chibusa No Enoki” (“The Ghost Tale of the Wet Nurse Tree”), about the murder of an artist by a samurai who desires the artist’s wife. Then, Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and dance company Rosas revisit four of her iconic early works, including “Fase,” which she first performed in the early 1980s to the music of Steve Reich.

Throughout summer, a number of exciting performances round out the festival: Houston Grand Opera presents “The Passenger” by Mieczyslaw Weinberg (July 10-13); The Bolshoi Opera performs “The Tsar’s Bride” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (July 12-13); The Bolshoi Ballet and Orchestra perform “Swan Lake” (July 15-20), “Don Quixote” July 22-23) and “Spartacus” (July 25-27); and the Sydney Theatre Co. presents “The Maids,” a darkly humorous play by Jean Genet (Aug. 6-16). (



July 31 – Aug. 3; Aspen, Colo.

The mountain community of Aspen is known for its commitment to the arts, with 25 galleries, a well-respected museum and world-famous cultural arts center. With that solid foundation, it was a logical location for organizers—who also present the esteemed ArtHamptons and Palm Springs Fine Art Fair—to establish ArtAspen, which embarks on its fifth year in 2014.


Focused on rare, museum-caliber contemporary work, the event is limited to only 30 dealers, creating an intimate atmosphere for art collectors and sellers to meet and mingle. In addition to perusing premier artwork, ArtAspen attendees may choose from a variety of exclusive parties, galas and panel discussions—revered art dealers will offer insights on building a valuable collection while collectors will share stories of landing their most prized artworks as well as the ones that got away.

The fair takes place at Aspen Ice Garden, just three blocks from popular Wagner Park on West Hyman and First streets, offering an ideal location for enjoying art and the local culture. (


Chicago Dancing Festival

Aug. 20-23; Chicago

Bringing together some of the country’s best dancers across a variety of genres, this four-day festival showcases top-caliber troupes at venues throughout the downtown area. This year’s lineup highlights acclaimed ballet, contemporary and ethnic dance companies, including the Joffrey Ballet, the Juilliard School, Hubbart Street Dance Chicago and stars of the Washington Ballet.

Jay Pritzker Pavilion (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)
Jay Pritzker Pavilion (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)

Since 2007, the festival has presented 60 groups and commissioned four new pieces. Last year’s event featured a gala performance and benefit, while the year prior the festival hosted a day of dance films and a panel discussion on the state of dance in Chicago.

Venues include the Harris Theater, the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, culminating with a finale at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an outdoor stage with a striking design by renowned architect Frank Gehry. (


Atlanta Arts Festival

Sept. 13-14; Atlanta

This free, outdoor festival in historic Piedmont Park features 200 of the country’s best artists in an eclectic mix of mediums, from paintings and photography to sculpture, leather, metal and glass, as well as art demonstrations, hands-on activities, live entertainment and food vendors.

Atlanta Arts Festival (Tony Benner Photography)
Atlanta Arts Festival (Tony Benner Photography)

Now in its eighth year, the festival is a must-attend event for art connoisseurs, offering the opportunity to find distinctive decor for their homes or wearable art in the form of one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces. The nationally recognized artists featured in the festival are hand-selected by a panel of professional jurors, chosen on a merit system based on the quality of their work.

Held the second weekend after Labor Day, the festival also presents live entertainment to delight attendees, including performances by Cliff deMarks, Kristen Englenz, Cigar Store Indians and The Rays, among others. Interactive workshops allow festival-goers to create masterpieces of their own, while top chefs, bakers and mixologists use their artistry to prepare dishes that are pleasing to the eye as well as the palate. (