Competition tough for entry into popular Plaza Art Fair

KANSAS CITY. Mo. - The Plaza Art Fair has come a long way since 1932 when the Plaza came up with the idea to draw in customers during the Great Depression.  Now in its 81st year, the art fair boasts hundreds of exhibitors.  The list includes local artists like photographer Chris Dahlquist.

"It's really fantastic after the summer of travel to end the show season at home at one of the premiere events in the country, which the Plaza Art Fair really is," Dahlquist said.

Dahlquist's studio is in the River Market area.  As she and her husband Kyle loaded up her work for the big weekend, she explained how working alongside some of the best artists in the country makes her a better artist.

"Sure, we all push one another creatively," she said. "You always want to be in a community that's going to challenge you, and so we're all growing together and pushing one another and helping one another and helping one another be the best artists that we can be."

When you draw in the best of the best, entry into the art fair can be quite competitive. 

"There's 1,200 applications at least every year for the Plaza Art Fair," explained artist and juror Michael Baxley. "And just by limitations alone, there's only 300, roughly about 300 booths available."

Baxley has appeared with his ceramics in the past.  This year he's serving as one of the four jurors.  As we toured the Belger Art Gallery in the Crossroads District, which houses his Red Star Studios, he explained the judging criteria.

"What we're trying to look for is quality, craftsmanship and then esthetically, if the piece is esthetically pleasing," Baxley said. "And so we're trying to balance out all of those things when we're jurying."

It's a process Baxley says naturally leads to a nice mix of styles and genres. But with that broad spectrum, artists say don't let their work intimidate you.

Mike Savage is a popular local painter appearing at the art fair for his 21st year.

"I have that motto for my business. It's ‘Art is simple," he explained. "You either like it or you don't."

Known for his bright colors and fun style, Savage enjoys showing people that art is something personal.

"I just tell people ‘Go in. If you like it, it draws you in. Go in and look at it,'" Savage said. "If not, move on. I don't think you should over-think it. It should just talk to you. If it says ‘Wow, I like that,' good enough. You don't have to like everything."

Dahlquist encourages patrons to talk to the artists and ask questions.

"Each one of the artists have got a story and are happy to share with the people out there about their work, why they make their work, not just how they make their work, but why they're doing what they're doing," he said. "And really, that's why we're all showing in this venue."

If all else fails, Savage says the Plaza Art Fair is one great party.

"Man, there's nothing like this in the country. There's big ones and a lot of people go to them. But this is the most enjoyable one. The setting's great. The restaurants, the food, the music - and it's all contained and everyone's having a great time," he said.

For more information on the Plaza Art Fair, visit

Visit Chris Dahlquist at Booth 249 or check out her website:

Visit Mike Savage at Booth 400 or check out his website:

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