Manayunk Arts Festival returns this weekend with spotlight on ‘Emerging Artists’

A closer look at the official poster for the 23rd Annual Manayunk Arts Festival, which is poised to take over Main Street this weekend between Green and Shurs Lanes, yields a few surprises.

More than 290 artists from 23 states will line Main Street with their booths this weekend. The festival opens on Saturday at 11 a.m. and runs until 7 p.m. It continues on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free.


The Festival’s featured image, by participating artist Charlie Barton, is a black, brown and sky-blue screen print, showing a team of scullers approaching a long bridge with familiar graceful arches.

What better image for a Manayunk summer art festival than a Philadelphia-area artist’s unique rendition of rowers on the Schuylkill? But the image actually doesn’t show Philadelphia at all – it’s based on a photo that was taken in Baltimore, Barton’s hometown.

According to Barton, that’s a big part of his work’s charm. While some of his images are “iconic” cityscapes or buildings, most of his pieces – many featuring row-homes, railroad tracks, rivers or bridges – manage to give viewers a familiar tug, no matter where they’re from.

Another surprise is that Barton, who received his Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from York College two years ago and now lives in Folcroft, Pa., is just 26 years old.

“I’m really excited to do the show, especially since I’m relatively new to the whole thing,” he says. “Most of the people who do these shows are 15 to 25 years my senior.”

Jane Lipton, executive director of the Manayunk Development Corporation, which organizes the festival, emphasizes how unusual it is for such a young artist’s work to be chosen as the face of the prestigious event. According to her, the majority of applicants don’t even make it past the event’s “tough” jury. (While Lipton does not sit on the jury for the selection of exhibitors, she does help to choose the image for the Festival poster).

Food and art debuts 

When this weekend’s art-lovers work up an appetite, several of Manayunk’s popular restaurants will be ready with booths of their own. In fact, Festival attendees can get their first taste of two brand-new local restaurants.

If you’re craving barbecue, head to Rubb, a popular mobile barbecue pit catering to diners throughout the city. Rubb is slated to open its first restaurant location on Main Street between Cotton Street and Roxborough Avenue later this summer. If you’re in the mood for Asian food, look to Moon Krapugthong, owner of Chabaa Thai Bistro. Her new sushi restaurant, Yanako (coming soon to Main and Roxborough), will also be offering Festival-goers an advance taste with dishes like Japanese-style skewers.

Also new to the Festival this year is a special Emerging Artists Showcase tent, located at the intersection of Main Street and Roxborough Avenue. The tent is sponsored by Manayunk’s BRR Architecture and The Little Apple.

“This is for young artists who want to have a shot,” Lipton says. These local undiscovered artists may not have the funds or the body of work to claim a regular booth, but they’re looking for a way to get a foot in the door. Many of them are Philadelphia-area university students, and their pieces for sale will include jewelry and watercolors.

The Emerging Artists Showcase grew out of collaboration with the Manayunk Arts Center in past years, and Lipton is pleased that the sponsoring businesses (teaming to offer six feet of table space each for about twenty artists) are showing so much community spirit.

“They’re doing something just because it’s a good thing,” she says.

The participating artists 

Patrons curious about Barton’s prints can stop by his booth, where his limited-edition screen prints – including images of Manayunk – will cost $125.

Barton’s unusual artistic process is an orchestrated collision of digital and traditional art forms. All of his striking silk-screen prints, most of which dwell on urban landscapes, begin with color photos Barton takes. Digital manipulation removes the original colors from the photos as the artist teases out their starkest layers. After adding a test-run of digital colors, including special patterns and graphics for some pieces, the resulting image is converted back to black-and-white for export as an extremely precise stencil, which is then applied to light-sensitive silk-screen. The colors of the final piece, based on Barton’s digital mock-up, are done with acrylic paint.

All in all, exhibiting artists fall into seven main categories: fiber, glass and ceramics, jewelry, mixed media, drawing and painting, photography, and wood and sculpture. Artists are arriving from all over the east coast, as well as California, Texas, Minnesota, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Ohio and Oregon.

Budget-conscious Festival goers looking to make a small purchase should visit Philadelphia’s Lauren Martin, who will be selling handmade cloth-embellished cards, or Sally Cates of Kennet Square, for her Wildwood Soapworks.

This year, be on the lookout not just for Arts Festival-branded merchandise, but for the debut of “MNYK” gear in the form of colorful shirts, hats and water bottles.


With as many as 200,000 people expected to descend on Main Street for the event, Lipton urges attendees not to contend with parking in Manayunk. Instead, catch a shuttle bus to Main Street, with stops at the Ivy Ridge Station, the parking lot at 555 City Avenue, Ridge and Parker Avenues, and Ridge Avenue and Shurs Lane. The buses will run from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday (the last one leaving Main Street at 7:30 p.m.) and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday (last one leaving Main at 6:30 p.m.).

Half of the $3 fee for the shuttle (as well as half the proceeds from sales of Barton’s poster art) will benefit North Light Community Center.

Biking, walking and SEPTA regional rail are also good options (according to Lipton, additional cars will be added to trains on the Manayunk line, to accommodate the expected crowds).

Lipton is most looking forward to the glass and jewelry that will be on show, but with so many artists, everyone can choose a different favorite.

“Every year, I walk down Main Street, and I still go, ‘wow!'” says Lipton.

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