The prestigious Art Basel Miami Beach may get all of the attention with its multimillionaire collectors, but the Las Olas Art Fair focuses on the artists and their relationships with tourists and locals in a way that creates a friendly and community-oriented atmosphere.
The Las Olas Art fair takes place three times a year, with the main event in January, and the other two in March and October. Last January the show brought in between 90,000-100,000 people, while the October show has brought in over 40,000 people from all over the world. Now in its 29th year, the October edition of the fair takes place weekend, giving the opportunity for artists to exhibit their work in this charming street.
“Artists’ hours of work can finally be appreciated by the community as the street is filled with music, the smell of food, and vibrations of color,” says regular attendee, local, and avid art lover Nancy Pina. “The relaxed environment filled with families, artists, color, and creativity is my favorite part of the Las Olas Art Fair.”
Pina isn’t the only one who enjoys attending the vibrant and nationally acclaimed fair. The Annual Las Olas Art Fair has earned such a strong following that almost every year since 1988, it has earned a spot in the nation’s Top 100 art festivals in a leading art publication and Top 50 on the Art Fair Calendar website for its quality and sales.
During this time, one of Fort Lauderdale’s most beloved streets is filled with music, food, colorful sculptures, and intricate, captivating art. Fort Lauderdale hotels proudly turn off their vacancy lights, restaurants have lines out the door, and beaches become crowded. But locals wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I like all the buzz Las Olas and Fort Lauderdale gets during the art fair,” Pina says. “It gives this loved place the attention it deserves.”
In the October fair, over 200 artists show and sell paintings, life-size sculptures, one-of-a-kind jewelry and photography. The art fair has even inspired doctors and lawyers to give up their careers to become artists. Artists finally have the opportunity to teach the public about their inspirations and techniques within their booths. Attendees can buy everything from $25 jewelry to sculptures that cost $60,000, giving options for all kinds of people to take home one-of-a-kind pieces.
“Unlike a museum or gallery, here at the Las Olas Art Fair you have a chance to meet the artists that created the masterpieces and buy right from them,” says event coordinator Howard Alan. “My company advertises, promotes, gets permits, and organizes everything for numerous art fairs all over the nation, but to me, there is no nicer street. Artists have collectors follow them from fair to fair and they eventually build such a relationship that artists stay the night at collectors’ houses.”
There is so much enthusiasm in the air during this weekend with children running around with their ice cream in hand and lovers of all ages holding hands. With numerous restaurants and boutiques to satisfy almost everyone’s taste, this boulevard filled with large trees, colorful flowers, and brick sidewalks is a beloved South Florida landmark.
“I have been involved with this art fair for three years and let me say that it truly has raised the bar for all things Fort Lauderdale,” says Amber VanBuren, executive director and board member of the Las Olas Association. “This street, especially with the art fair, brings a huge sense of community.”
Locals don’t take Fort Lauderdale’s jewel for granted, and neither do tourists.
“Art show junkies plan vacations around the fair,” says Alan. “It is incredible how much it influences so many people and the businesses in the area. It influences so much that after coming to the art fair, people have ended up renting store space to open up their own shops on Las Olas.”
Admission is free, giving a chance for families and event-goers to see exquisite artwork of all kinds, interact with artists, and have a good time.
“My kids have grown up going at least once a year to the art fair,” says Pina. “Even if you are not one to go to art galleries, just the atmosphere itself is enough to get you to come back next year.”