If you're looking to do some window-shopping without windows, experience one of the various art festivals that occur in the summer in Portland. The weather is (usually) warm and sunny, and the array of local artists and craftsmen who display and sell their work is substantial. Depending on the festival (and there are a few) vendors line different streets and invite visitors to peruse works - whether it's visual art, jewelry, or other crafts. Creativity abounds and its inspiration is a perfect companion to the beautiful Maine summer.
The Sidewalk Art Festival
The Sidewalk Art Festival, which occurs annually in late August or early September in Portland, is the largest art festival in New England and most recently attracted 300 artists and 40,000 visitors. It only occurs for one day, but the city overflows with art of all kinds. Streets are carless, as the festival spans the entire downtown neighborhood of the city. Perched beneath small white tents, you'll find both the art and the artists, so you can inquire about the art you're viewing to the artist directly. For one day, the city becomes an outdoor museum of sorts; under clear summer skies, you'll witness first-hand how much creativity this state inspires and the variety of mediums through which it's expressed.
The Picnic Music & Arts Festival
The Picnic Music & Arts Festival is usually one week after the Sidewalk Art Festival and attracts an equally creative but younger crowd. Vendors set up shop in Lincoln Park, located at the corner of Peal and Federal Streets, and the arts and crafts are all local. Quirky jewelry and vintage clothes, as well as handmade prints and accessories, represent the indie craft scene in the city. Visitors get the sense that the city's younger crowd is invested in their art; the wide range of talent is unmistakable and fun to peruse. Artists are on-site so you can strike up a conversation about the inspiration behind a work of art or the way in which a specific piece was crafted. Local indie bands play throughout the day, and you'll find visitors plopped down in the sun, taking in the tunes while enjoying the lazy Maine summer afternoon.
Picnic Holiday Sale
If you're not in town for the summer, there's a Picnic Holiday Sale in December at the Maine Irish Heritage Center. A few weeks before Christmas, this fair features many of the same vendors but this time it's indoors. Visitors can shop for stocking stuffers and will find the same quirky, creative gifts from local artists and vendors. The best local indie bands also play at this event, though is it a picnic if it's in December? An indoor picnic works, as long as you're not wearing shorts and sunglasses. In any case, the local arts and crafts scene is so diverse and productive in this city that one summer picnic wasn't enough. Good to know you can encounter creativity during any season in Portland. Summer or winter, locals are painting, sewing, taking pictures and writing songs. Creativity never lets up in Portland, and the abundence of wonderful, interesting art festivals makes this clear!
By Heather Clarke