Labors of Love

Art in the Pearl celebrates 20 years

Begun in 1996 by a group of 15 dedicated local artists, the highly acclaimed Art in the Pearl Fine Arts & Crafts Festival has developed over the past two decades into one of the foremost juried arts events in the Pacific Northwest. Held over the three-day Labor Day weekend in the verdant North Park Blocks (between Davis and Flanders Streets), this free festival now features some 130 artists—from throughout the United States and Canada—and draws upwards of 100,000 shoppers, from veteran art buyers looking to purchase high-ticket works to casual fans hoping to score an affordable, one-of-a-kind photo, sculpture, or drawing.

Wherever you fall on the art-buyer spectrum, you’ll find plenty of exceptional items, and you can talk with artists about their creations. The diversity of works is impressive, from contemporary Oregon landscape paintings to hand-cast copper bowls to wearable sculptured leather bags with ornate stone and metalwork.

The fun goes well beyond art. There’s also live music on the Songwriters Stage, which showcases local musicians performing original material, often folk, blues, and roots music. Come hungry, as you can feast on edibles from more than 15 local vendors, ranging from the sweet and savory crepes of C’est Si Bon to refreshing shave ice from Island Daydream.

There’s also an educational element to this family-friendly event—in the demonstration area, you can listen to artists discuss their techniques and, in a hands-on education pavilion, try your hand at different arts and crafts.

For artists fortunate enough to earn a place at the festival, Art in the Pearl represents a significant achievement—less than 15 percent of those who apply are selected. The nonprofit festival is operated by a volunteer board “to build an interactive environment between the artists and the community.”

Art in the Pearl hours are 10–6 on Saturday and Sunday, September 3 and 4, and 10–5 on Monday, September 5. This convivial gathering offers Portlanders and visitors a fantastic way to end the summer—or kick off autumn—on a high note. –Andrew Collins