Arts festivals are the great cultural equalizers in Colorado: They often feature high-caliber pieces to engage more serious fans while still keeping the atmosphere low-key enough for those who feel intimidated by galleries and more esoteric options. Not an art enthusiast? Most of the festivals also feature great music and food, and often locally crafted merchandise, including furniture and toys. The festival scene in the metro area is delightfully diverse; there really is something for everyone. Here are ten of the best arts festivals in the area, in chronological order (and updated to replace events that are over).
Denver Urban Market
Thursdays and Saturdays through October 20, free
Skyline Park, 16th Street Mall and Arapahoe Street
Locally homemade arts and crafts, clothing, jewelry and antiques are features at the Urban Market, which runs until fall in Skyline Park. The twice-weekly event, which has been a downtown summer fixture since 2005, counts inexpensive food booths from local eateries among its charms, and the odd (but appealing) collection of items for sale gives it a laid-back and local feel. There's live music at noon, too. Fair warning: no market on June 16 or June 18.
Denver Arts Festival
June 18-19, free
Stapleton’s Conservatory Green Plaza at Northfield
The Downtown Denver Arts Festival has turned into the Denver Arts Festival (long ago, it was called the Celebrate Colorado Artists Festival) and moved from downtown to Northfield at Stapleton. But this free, eighteen-year-old fest still promises the same showcase of the work of more than a hundred artists — most of them from Colorado, with a smattering of nationally known names. Mediums represented include painting, sculpture and jewelry as well as works in wood, glass, fiber, metal and leather. The festival also promises ample parking (one of the reasons it moved).
June 18, July 16, August 20, September 17, free.
Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design
1600 Pierce Street, Lakewood
Though you'll find food at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design's FARMCAD, don't be misled: This is less a farmers' market than an arts-and-crafts market with a focus on education.The four Saturday markets this summer will feature everything from handmade crafts to fine art; there will also be hands-on art activities for kids and, yes, food-truck fare. The market doubles as an introduction to the school, and RMCAD will be offering tours of the institution that got its start a century ago as the Jewish Consumptives' Relief Society.
Cherry Blossom Denver
June 18-19, free
Sakura Square, Lawrence Street between 19th and 20th streets
A little slice of Japan, the 44th annual Cherry Blossom festival June 18 and June 19 features Taiko drumming, martial arts demos, dance troupe performances and music, as well as a wide array of Japanese foods to try. Sample the special Sakura Matsuri beer made by the local Jagged Mountain Brewery, or try a sake or free cup of green tea. Between events, peruse more than forty booths highlighting Japanese arts and crafts. This year’s special feature is The Awakened Spirit, a traveling exhibition of contemporary Japanese calligraphy, and inside the Tri-State/Denver Buddhist Temple, ikebana (flower arrangements) and bonsai will be showcased and for sale.
The French Nest Open-Air Market
Third Saturdays through October, free
Civic Center Park, Old Town West, Laporte Avenue and Howes Street, Fort Collins
On the third Saturday of each month through October (except August), you can head to the pretty French Nest market in the heart of downtown Fort Collins, on the grass one block from the farmers’ market. This eight-year-old arts market does have a distinct French air, with things like dried-flower arrangements, upcycled furniture, vintage and new clothing, and locally made pottery and paintings for sale. Grab a good cup of coffee and a just-baked pastry from one of the food booths and get ready to meander.
Keep reading for more of the best arts festivals this summer.