Navigating This Weekend's 55th Annual Mystic Outdoor Arts Festival

Annual arts festival kicks off downtown Saturday with 300 artists and lots of memories to be made.

The Mystic Outdoor Arts Festival has been tirelessly organized as an annual event since 1957 by the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce.

This weekend, Aug. 11 and 12, the festival enters its 55th year with nearly 300 artists and artisans with an estimated 100,000 pieces on display.

The key to navigating the seemingly endless sea of vendors in the late-summer heat is to take a casual stroll through town. It is such a treat just to slow down.

Many of the artists that have been participating for years have kept their usual spots. Some of my favorites are setting up shop near the Mystic Arts Center on Water Street, including last year’s Robert Brackman Award-winner, Del-Bourree Bach.

Water Street is like the walk of fame. Be sure to look for other award-winners from last year’s festival: watercolor artist Sharon Way-Howard, graphic artist Marian O’Connell, oil painter Harry Jarman and photographer David Stern.

Volunteers at the Children’s Art Park will entertain families in two locations this year. The first on Cottrell Street and the other on Water Street where the Mystic Arts Center is preparing family-friendly activities Saturday from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. Step inside and take a peek at the 56th Annual Regional Exhibit featuring work by William Butcher.

Cottrell Street is a great place to sit and enjoy an unobstructed view of the Mystic Drawbridge and the Mystic Seaport. Here you’ll find a collection of artisans working in all kinds of media from acrylics to oils and even driftwood.

Straddling the drawbridge are West and East Main Streets. On display will be some of the most exquisite works by artists from all over the East Coast. While you are here think local! Pop into one of the many shops or restaurants lining the streets. You will find galleries with a pulse on the local art scene including The Finer Line, Studio Jeffrey P’an, Trade Winds and Puffins. Last year’s Best In Show winner, oil painter–Lisa Ashinoff, will display her newest work on West Main Street.

Just north of East Main Street on Willow Street you’ll find humorist Greg Stones, with his zombie- and penguin-inspired illustrations. Kids and adults will love his quirky sense of humor. I’m proud to say that we own two of Greg Stones’ books.

One of the fondest memories that I have of the festival is of my children pulling me into the tent of illustrator Eric Sturtevant. They were giddy over Sturtevant's menagerie of poker playing, tutu-wearing jungle animals. Eric and I have since become friends and I am so excited to see his latest kooky creatures!

This is what it’s all about ... friends. Every year there are new friends to meet and old friends to connect with and for two days, within two miles filled with color, we have a chance to say hello and take home something beautiful.


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