Bethesda Row Arts Festival invites art lovers to browse and buy from 165 artists over five blocks

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the Bethesda Row Arts Festival (Part 1)

Are you looking for new artwork to adorn your home? Maybe a nice gift as the holidays approach?

The Bethesda Row Arts Festival will be celebrating its 25th edition this Saturday and Sunday in Bethesda, Maryland.

“It is the area’s largest fine arts event,” co-director Jon Gann told WTOP. “It is a huge outdoor festival. This year we have five blocks and 165 artists from around the country, everything from painting to wood to glass to sculpture and metals, so many different artistic disciplines to see and shop from.”

The festival takes place over five blocks on three streets: Bethesda Avenue, Woodmont Avenue and Elm Street.

“Adding an extra block has been an interesting challenge for us, but it’s great, it means we get to bring on 17 more artists,” Gann said. “We’re really excited that this year, of the 160-some artists, we have 62 new artists to the event, which is fantastic. Of those, I believe 37 this is the first time they’ve ever even applied to participate.”

About 30 of the artists consider themselves local, meaning they’re within an hour’s drive of Bethesda.

“Some of them include the incredible Matthew Miller, who is a painter out of Frederick, he won an award last year. Joseph Craig English, who’s been a fixture of the D.C. arts community for years, he does beautiful prints of different neighborhoods in the area,” Gann said. “We’ve got the gorgeous jewelry of Carl Tanner, who’s based out of Fairfax, whose work is just stunning. Amanda Outcalt, who’s an incredible illustrator, she’s won awards here in the past.”

These awards aren’t just for pride. The artists also compete for prize money.

“We have a jury of three artists who will be walking around the show on Saturday,” Gann said. “They select the artists who will be in the show, then from the actual work that they see, they will select top winners in each category, as well as a first, second and ‘best in show’ prize. A competition with about $6,000 in prize money.”

As for patrons, the festival is free and walkable, allowing folks to make a day of it.

“You just walk to the neighborhood and enjoy,” Gann said. “While you’re there, there’s fantastic restaurants and stores as part of Bethesda Row. It’s easy to get to, you can take Metro, you can drive, there’s plenty of public garages available, the bike path goes right through it, so it’s really easy to get to and there’s lots to do while you’re walking around. We find that most people take an hour or two to walk through the entire show.”

Last year saw about 25,000 visitors, which was almost back to pre-pandemic numbers of 30,000 people.

“We have a lot of people who come on Saturday and sorts of peruse, then come back on Sunday and they buy,” Gann said. “There are a lot of collectors who come to the event who go to some of their favorite artists that they’ve been seeing for many years and add to their collections. We also have people who come for the first time, meet a new artist, develop a relationship and start their own collections.”

Find more information on all of the artists here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the Bethesda Row Arts Festival (Part 2)

Listen to the full interview here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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