Metro-East News

Art on the Square again claims title of best art fair

Big crowds typically fill downtown Belleville for the Art on the Square. This overall view is from the second floor of the Art on the Square office located on the southeast corner of Public Square.
Big crowds typically fill downtown Belleville for the Art on the Square. This overall view is from the second floor of the Art on the Square office located on the southeast corner of Public Square. tvizer@bnd.com

Art on the Square, Belleville’s annual art fair, as been ranked No. 1 in the nation for the fifth time by Art Fair SourceBook.

Art Fair Sourcebook ranks thousands of fairs based on the total amount of artists’ reported sales. Artists who come to Belleville routinely have combined sales above $1 million, said Patty Gregory, who runs Art on the Square’s three-day event. In 2015, they sold more than $1.2 million.

Gregory thought that some of Belleville’s success has to do with the fair’s goals, which include reflecting the town’s diverse community, she said. The event brings in artists from around 30 states, too.

Another key factor is the range of affordability of artworks.

“We tried to make the show as accessible as possible from the beginning,” Gregory said.

Thanks to Art on the Square’s success, Gregory has been approached to make the size of the fair bigger, but she said keeping the number of artists aroundto about 100 to 105 is part of its appeal.

Attracting artists to the first Art on the Square was difficult, Gregory said, though it didn’t take long for it to build a national reputation. After the first year, it ranked 43 out of 6,000 art fairs. In its second year, the fair cracked the top 25, and in its third year, it ranked the best in the nation for a town with a population less than 50,000 people.

“It’s a labor of love,” Gregory said.

Casey Bischel: 618-239-2655, @CaseyBischel

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