The Square in Bloomsburg will again come alive this Saturday for the 12th annual ArtFest, with a record number of arts and crafts vendors to peruse, as well as plenty of entertainment and an array of hands-on art projects.

Produced by The Exchange since 2016, the event drew its largest crowd last year — an approximate 2,500 people. Described as “a summertime art party,” ArtFest will feature 53 vendors — 44 artists and crafters, five non-profits, and four food trucks. Lining Market and Main streets will be artists including painters, photographers, potters, jewelers, sculptors, glass artists, fabric artists, woodworkers, skincare experts, a bonsai grower, doughnut bakers, cupcake maker, various upcyclers, and a children’s book illustrator.

Oren Helbok, executive director of The Exchange, said ArtFest was held for nine years on Center Street, in front of the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble’s Alvina Krause Theatre and the Artspace Gallery. 

When they moved it in 2017 to the Square, which surrounds the town’s popular fountain, though they didn’t want to leave their “cultural district” behind, he said, “we realized that we should have moved years earlier.”

“Our fountain has served as the unofficial town symbol for more than a century,” he said, “and on wide-open Market Street, overtopped by shade trees, and in front of the landmark Caldwell Consistory Masonic cathedral, ArtFest feels like the perfect small-town event: happy people in a beautiful location, and a unique location – one that we in Bloomsburg gratefully get to call our own.”

Those attending will also be able to participate in activities including The Exchange’s Art Cart, where people of all ages can make art projects out of recycled materials, and a container-garden contest hosted by the Fishing Creek Watershed Association. Face-painting will be offered by the Reconciling Community of Wesley United Methodist Church, and hands-on art projects will also be offered by the Bloomsburg Public Library.

Musical entertainment will also be provided throughout the day: Raven Creek (bluegrass) at 10 a.m. and noon; Nick McGaw at 11 a.m.; Stacia Abernatha and Sean Farley at 1 and 3 p.m.; and Kerry Kenny at 2 and 4 p.m.

Abernatha said this will be the first time that she and Farley, who are based in Williamsport, will be playing at the ArtFest. They both, she said, “love to celebrate the arts, meet new folks, and share our original music.”

Abernatha and Farley have been performing together for two years.

“We’ve played a lot of cool rooms together,” she said, in addition to performing at each other’s album release concerts.

On Saturday, they will be performing a blend of blues, roots and R&B.

According to Helbok, “the music sets the tone for the whole event, but it never gets in the way of conversation.”

“In our small town, many attendees know each other, and of course returning attendees from out of town know many of the exhibitors whose work they come to see,” he said. “The locals and the out-of-towners always find things that bring them together to talk about,” he added, “whether anticipating the delicious lunches they will order from one of the food trucks or admiring the wares in one of the artists’ booths.”

ArtFest began through Downtown Bloomsburg Inc., which has recently focused its efforts more on economic development and revitalization. “It made sense for an organization focused on the arts to take over ArtFest,” Helbook said, “and The Exchange makes the perfect partner.”

Since 2014, The Exchange gallery space has hosted work by more than 500 people of all ages and experience levels, Helbok said. The non-profit corporation is also involved in community events throughout the year, including coordinating Halloween window-painting downtown with the help of more than a hundred middle and high-school students; collaborating with other non-profits to host Boo!burg street festival in October; and hosting Destination Blues that brings musical artists to venues throughout Columbia and Montour counties.

“ArtFest fits seamlessly into our overall mission of bringing the arts to all communities throughout our region,” Helbok said.

ArtFest is supported in part by the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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