54 years ago, a group of local businessmen and women in the Uptown Commercial Club tried to develop ways to increase traffic and draw more people to the core of Uptown. In the late 1950’s, the Uptown area had fallen on hard times so there was interest by area businesses and residents to regain the popularity of the past. One idea was an art fair and the Uptown Art Fair was born!
The first Uptown Art Fair was held in 1964 and featured 146 artists selling their wares on folding tables on the sidewalk. It brought art into everyday life onto the streets of an urban neighborhood and brought increased attention to the business district in the Hennepin – Lake area. Throughout the 1960’s, Uptown continued to gain a reputation as an “artsy” neighborhood and the Art Fair added to that perception. In later years, the newly formed merchants association, the Uptown Association, took over the production of the event and new ideas emerged to make the event bigger and better. One key idea was to increase the quality of the show and attract new artists through the development of a jury system that required higher artist standards than before.
Since then, the Uptown Art Fair, produced by the Uptown Association, has evolved into an internationally recognized 3 day fine arts festival and one of the top 10 fine arts festivals in the country. With 338 artists representing 34 states and 4 international countries, and nearly 385,000 art enthusiasts enjoying the show in 2015, the event is the largest art fair in the state of Minnesota and second only to the Minnesota State Fair in number of attendees.