Bay View Art in the Park at Humboldt Park
September 1, 2016
By Sheila Julson
Long-time Bay View residents can attest to their neighborhood’s growth from a close-knit, somewhat sleepy blue-collar community to a haven for young professionals, artisans, musicians, and foodies.
Despite its new hip status, the community retains its respect for its roots and history and a know-your-neighbor ambiance.
It’s only natural then, that “new Bay View” has embraced Bay View Art in the Park, a premier fine arts and craft fair that strives to offer diverse and affordable paintings, prints, jewelry, ceramics, glassware, photography, sculpture, metal, and fiber arts.
The fair is held the second Saturday each month in Humboldt Park, May through September.
Local ceramics artist Brian Breider founded Bay View Art in the Park. It debuted the summer of 2014 at Zillman Park on the north end of Kinnickinnic Avenue.
By offering affordable fine art, Breider aimed to fill a market niche without competing with other local craft fairs.
Zillman Park was originally chosen because it was an underutilized space, Breider said. During the fair’s first two seasons, he staged the event every Saturday throughout the summer, rather than once a month. It was an experiment to see if the community would support a weekly art event, especially during Wisconsin’s short summer season filled with festivals, concerts, and events.
In February, Breider told the Compass he felt the construction planned for the Faust Music site on Kinnickinnic and Ward, across the street from Zillman Park, would not be advantageous for the event, the artisans, or its patrons. As such, he decided to find a new venue. He selected Humboldt Park.
The new once-per-month schedule and the move to Humboldt Park appear to have benefited everyone. “Ultimately the artisans decide, and without the artisans there is no event, so I definitely go by their feedback and their needs,” Breider said. “The artisans really like this space, and it’s easy to load and unload. The patrons like it as well, but the focus is first and foremost on the community of artisans. If they’re happy, I’m happy, so we’re hoping we can stay there.”
Breider said he rotates the vendors and that about 36 are present each month. Some sign on for the whole season, while others for one or two dates, an approach that he said allows for a good rotation schedule.
Breider has received compliments on the diversity of vendors. He doesn’t limit the number of artisans who offer the same medium or style but he strives to find a mix of student artisans, up-and-coming artisans, and established artisans. There is a waiting list, he said.
Admission is free so sponsorship dollars cover advertising costs, Breider’s largest expense. Revenue generated by vendors who rent a 10-foot by 10-foot space covers other expenses such as park fees and insurance.
Breider said that some have suggested he invite food trucks but he rejected the idea because he prefers to keep the event focused on art. He also values his partnership with St. Francis Brewing, the vendor who operates the Humboldt Park Beer Garden, and does not want to bring in food or beverage vendors that might compete with the brewery.
Making fine art affordable has been the Breider’s mission since inception. “We don’t have a price cap and some artisans have sold some higher ticket items valued at several hundred dollars, but we just ask that our artisans have a nice range so the art is accessible for everybody,” he said.
“We don’t compete too much with other craft fairs like Makers Market. We want to work together. There’s no shortage of creative people in Milwaukee, but we have to choose artisans that we think will bring diversity to our festival,” Breider added.
Community nonprofits offer art-related, hands-on activities for children and adults to participate in during each of the monthly events. The final date of the 2016 season is Saturday, Sept. 10 from 11am to 5pm. Sponsors Sparrow Collective and Walker’s Point Center for the Arts will offer a free children’s art workshop.
Will the event remain in Humboldt Park in 2017? Breider said it comes down to whether fees charged by Milwaukee County Parks for the use of garbage cans and other facilities will remain affordable. He noted that he plans to retain the once-per-month schedule.
The final event of the 2016 season is Saturday, Sept. 10.
More info: bvartinthepark.com.
Sheila Julson, who grew up in Bay View, is a regular contributor to the Bay View Compass.
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