Triangle Association booth at the First Art Fair (8/25/84)

Triangle Association booth at the First Art Fair (1984)

It all began one hot Chicago summer in the early ’80s, when four neighborhood artists (Bob Smeltzer, Joe Kotzman, Tony Cachapero, and Rodney Patterson) decided to have an art fair — a picnic in the park. Rodney suggested that it might be a good opportunity for local artists to show and share their work to each other and to their neighbors.

1984 Bucktown Art Fair application

1984 Bucktown Art Fair application

Each participating artist contributed $20 for printing and other costs, and they got the word out as best they could with Joe (design) and Bob (lettering) collaborating on a poster advertising the event. Rodney’s wife, Carol Severino, played drums in a local band named The Subterraneans, which played at the one-day event. A neighbor made and sold guacamole. Bob’s wife, Avis, was given the task of registering and assigning the artists to their places.

The group got permission and closed Oakley from Lyndale to Belden, and 20 artists set up exhibitions of their work in the street. The band set up in the amphitheater. People came by and were friendly and encouraging. At the wrap-up, Tony emphatically declared that “the art fair was a two-day event!”

Bob Smeltzer, founder and chairperson of the Fest (1987)

Bob Smeltzer, founder and chairperson of the Fest (1987)


In 1988, Bucktown Fine Arts became a non-profit organization with a mission to provide arts and education programming to the Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood, particularly at Holstein Park. Our special thanks goes out to Carol Miller Tarnoff, Diane Rodenberg Towber, and Henry Seale for making this step possible.

The health and longevity of the Bucktown Arts Fest are possible thanks to the stewardship of Phil Mrozinski (past chair), Brian Mattson (past co-chair), Maria Mariottini, Kyle Carstensen (past president), Melissa Hellstern (current president), and the labor of countless other community representatives, committee members, and volunteers.

Comments (46)

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