Art in the Park Fine Art Festival celebrates nine years this weekend

Make your way to the banks of the Turkey River in Historic Elkader for the 9th Annual Art in the Park Fine Art Festival. This year Art in the Park (AITP) is slated for Saturday, Aug. 19, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, Aug. 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Founders’ Park in Elkader. AITP is a free community event, with free admission and free parking.

The festival will feature over 50 fine artists from across the region who have been juried into the 2023 event. They will offer a variety of artwork showcasing ceramics, drawing, glass, jewelry, painting, photography, metal, sculpture, wood and more. Artists will be painting and selling in the park, and new this year is a wellness area. Fine art festivals give visitors a chance to purchase, view and enjoy original art and meet the artists who create it.

New art unveiling

Every year there is something new to see at AITP. This year, in collaboration with The Abdelkader Education Project and I am Your Protector Project, AITP will feature the special unveiling of an interactive sculpture that explores the intersection of storytelling, art and activism. The life-size statue of Abdelkader, Elkader’s namesake, was created by Joe Reginella, dubbed the “Banksy of Monuments,” who has recently arrived in Elkader from New York. 

Be in the park on Saturday, Aug. 19, at noon to hear from Tamar Miller, current President of I Am Your Protector and former Director of Leadership Development and Executive Director of the Institute for Social and Economic Policy in the Middle East at Harvard’s Kennedy School. 

Music, children’s activities, interactive opportunities

In addition to viewing and purchasing original fine art from the region’s best artists, there will be a musical lineup from local to international artists that includes Skinny and the Shakes, Cup O’Joe, Patsy & The Plum Street Jam, Sophia Landis and Jake Stephens, Jordan Messerole and The Resonant Rogues.

The children’s art activities can be found near the playground pavilion, along with many daily workshops. Those who enjoyed the drumming circle last year, Sally Marshall (with The Left Bank Gallery) will be back Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m., with her drums, all ages are welcome. 

The workshop area will once again host demos and interactive sessions from northeast Iowa galleries on both Saturday and Sunday. There will also be yoga in the park on both Saturday and Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m., for a free will donation – bring a yoga mat.  

A festival wouldn’t be a festival without yummy food and refreshments. Wine and beer tastings will be featured this year, along with an abundance of delicious food vendors returning to Founders’ Park. Plan ahead to take advantage of all the festival offers and the surrounding community has to offer by reserving a place to stay at an eclectic bed and breakfast or one of the area’s scenic campgrounds. 

One of the event’s founders shared, “Each year the event has grown, and we believe that’s happened due to the enthusiastic support of the volunteers and sponsors who are eager to celebrate and support the arts in our community.”


Nine years ago, a group of local artist wanted to bring a fine arts festival to Elkader and Leslie Gibbons, Kris Gover, Julie Carlisle Kane, Jillian Webb Herman and Shannon Durbin (current director of ArtHaus) worked tirelessly to bring their vision to life. With a grant from Iowa Arts Council, many local sponsors and Main Street Elkader, Art in the Park was born. This event is always held in Elkader’s Founders Park the third weekend in August.

AITP has had an impact in Elkader that the original organizers had hoped for. 

“A little story to this and a fact that the festival does bring new dreams of art to mind,” stated Elkader Merchant’s Group Coordinator Deborah Schmitt. “A woman from Cedar Rapids attended the first AITP and was simply blown away with what she saw. So much so that a few years ago they moved into a house they’d been restoring and opened G’s Closet and Gallery. The idea was to give Iowa artists a year-round venue to sell their work.” 

That seed planted grew, and in 2021 these artists and more came together to form The Collective-Art Gallery in the same space. The Collective is a shared art cooperative that has many different artisans and their pieces. They even offer Pilates and Yoga and art classes of all kinds. Another boon is every first Friday of each month, when the gallery is open late from 5 to 8 p.m. First Fridays in June 2022 saw a collaborative effort between Elkader Area Chamber, Main Street Elkader, The Collective-Art Gallery and Elkader Merchants to “Light Up the Night” on Main Street. The community had so much fun it’s now being planned as an annual event. 

Art is engrained in the town, with many murals that artists from all over contributing to many locations throughout the downtown areas. The natural progression and growth of the AITP fine art festival is one the community is happy to share with the Driftless region.

Art in the Park is an event of Main Street Elkader and supported by the community and volunteers that make it possible. Find more information and a sneak peek at this year’s artists online at and

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