Allentown Art Festival has something for everyone

Jun 8, 2018

Hundreds of thousands of visitors from across Western New York will flock to downtown Buffalo for the 61st Allentown Art Festival this weekend. Art lovers and people-watchers will find streets filled with arts, music, and energy.

Former scholarship winner Kelsey Merkle designed this year's Allentown poster.

What started as a small art show in 1958 is now one of the largest festivals of Buffalo's summers. Around 475 vendors will be set up along Delaware Avenue and Allen Street, showcasing their art for admirers and buyers.

Patrons can expect a few changes, including more music, but many returning favorites will be among the vendors.

“The show changes a little bit at least every year,” said Rita Harrington-Lippman, President of the Allentown Arts Festival. “We have new artists coming in. We have old favorites. And we also have music. We started music a couple years ago, so there will be music outside of the Wilcox Mansion on Delaware and we’ll also have some strolling musicians throughout the show.”

Among the musicians will be a barbershop quartet, folk artists and the Buffalo School of Performing Arts, to name a few.

As for the art, Lippman says jewelry, paintings, mosaic glass and sculptures are among the items patrons can expect to see and ultimately, “everybody can find something that they like.”

Proceeds from the two-day long event benefit the Allentown Art Festival Inc, a volunteer, non-profit that supports the local arts. One way they help is through financially supporting young artists. Over the years, the organization has helped hundreds of students with scholarships. They issue 10 scholarships a year, as well as also support the NYS Summer School for the Arts program in Chautauqua County and programs at the Albright Knox and Burchfield Penney.

To be eligible for scholarships, students must be or plan to major in arts in college and live locally. Lippman said they are in the process of expanding from Erie County to all eight counties of Western New York.

Every year, for the poster and apparel design, the festival holds a contest months in advance. This year’s logo depicting a female artist, with her brown hair swept into a bun, arms loaded with a colorful painting and arts supplies, hunched over but walking on. The winner, Kelsey Merkle, is one of their former scholarship winners.

“We’ve seen her from the time she was in high school,” Harrington-Lippman said about Markle. “She received a scholarship from us to go to art school and she came back as an exhibitor. She does all sorts of things and she’s won prizes with us also and now this year, she’s won a poster contest. So she’s our star, I would say.”

Lippman has a bit of advice for festival newcomers: Start on one end, walk down Delaware Avenue and head over to Franklin Street to cool off a bit.

Or just dip into a tent for a break and strike a conversation with an artist. That works well, too.

Allentown Art Festival:

June 9 and 10

10 a.m. to 6 p.m.