What’s Blooming on Harrison? The Oak Park Arts District Spring Festival!

What’s Blooming on Harrison? The Oak Park Arts District Spring Festival


Since 1999 the Oak Park Arts District has ushered in the Chicagoland festival season with a street fest as unique as its district is. What’s Blooming on Harrison is celebration the OPAD itself and features local vendors, bringing attention to the diversity of artists in the area and the wide variety of work they produce. What’s Blooming is a truly family-oriented festival that includes everything from a children’s carnival to the Taylor Avenue Beer Garden. The festival begins on the Third Friday Gallery Walk on May 18 and continues on Saturday from 11 AM to 9 PM.

The festival is open to artists, not-for-profits, for-profits, vintage resellers, from Oak Park, Chicago, and the surrounding suburbs. The festival only accepts handmade and original work, which keeps the festival focused on independent vendors and prevents the event from becoming commercialized.

Susan Lechner, local artist whose work includes hand-painted magnets, larger paintings, prints, coasters and framed mini paintings, is participating in the What’s Blooming for the seventh year. Of the festival, Susan says, “Most Chicago festivals set out to bring a sense of community to their individual neighborhoods, but I have found that not all succeed.  What is meant to be a fun weekend to support local businesses and artists often ends up feeling too commercialized.  Thanks to the amazing organizers and the community of Oak Park, this festival truly feels unique.  What’s Blooming stands out as a true representation of how wonderful it feels when people come together to enjoy their neighborhood and all that it has to offer.

Margaux Mays, another returning participant, (2018 will be her fourth year participating) will feature concrete jewelry, upcycled leather accessories (earrings, necklaces, and hairpins), hand-painted wood earrings and necklaces, polymer clay necklaces, and notecard prints of her original paintings. She says, “I will also feature details about my creative studio which is available to fellow artists looking for a space to teach small groups.” Margaux loves What’s Blooming because, “In addition to the unique art, there is something for everyone at What’s Blooming on Harrison from the craft activities for kids to the beer garden for adults. I think it’s a great experience for shoppers to check out local artists and vendors at their booths as well as the shops along Harrison street.” Her work can be found at margauxonline.etsy.com.

Of course, no festival day would be complete without live music. What’s Blooming features music at four stages. A main stage at the Taylor Avenue Beer Garden, a stage at Val’s Halla Records, an acoustic stage at Lombard and Harrison, and a new stage this year on Humphrey and Harrison. Buzz Café also features live music during the festival. Though the exact line-ups of music for the festival are still to-be-determined, music starts at 11 AM on Saturday and runs through the day, continuing until just before 9. Laurel Wolff, a head organizer for What’s Blooming told me, “Last year we were breaking things down and it all ended cause the guys who came to pick up the tables and chairs were like ‘it’s time to go!’”

In addition to vendor booths, many of the galleries along Harrison will be open extended hours during the festival. Black Moon Gallery & Studio, for example, will be open Friday and Saturday, featuring art, beer, wine, t-shirts and cozies.

What’s Blooming on Harrison is also a great opportunity to get involved in the Oak Park Arts District community. The festival needs volunteers in order to keep the event on schedule and flowing smoothly. If you’re interested in volunteering, you can reach out to Laurel Wolff directly at whatsblooming@oakparkartsdistrict.com.