ArtSoFo looks to continue growing upscale art scene

When Mandie Fleming moved to Springfield and landed among the historic homes along South Fountain Avenue, she says she immediately envisioned what the street would look like lined with white tents full of artists showcasing their creations.

Fleming, who along with her husband owns Velorossa Designs, had participated in a variety of juried art fairs in Oregon and Denver in their time before moving to Springfield.

“It was a lot of fun and a great experience,” she says. “Seeing all the Victorian homes, I thought this would be the cutest place for an art fair … it’s a gorgeous image that kept floating around my mind.”

After pitching her idea to South Fountain Preservation – a non-profit that Fleming says is made up of mostly neighbors – she got the go-ahead to lead the charge on making the first ArtSoFo event happen in 2019.

Though 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic led the event to take pause, it came back stronger in 2021 with twice as many artists from the region and across the country.

“I was so impressed that all the neighbors got behind it,” she says. “Talk about a super cool community.”

The event will consistently remain on the first Saturday in October annually, landing it on Oct. 1 this year. The 2021 event added live musicians who played from a stage-like porch of one of the South Fountain homes and food trucks.

In addition to making the event fun and inviting for patrons, Fleming says it was important to her to make the event feel extremely inviting to the artists themselves. Having participated in juried art shows herself, she tried to draw upon what she would have appreciated and what would have made the experience top-notch for her.

“It’s really fun for the artists themselves. It’s like a retreat where they can feel pampered and like royalty,” she says. “We have volunteers checking on them to help with set up and tear down. We offer then snacks and coffee. We provide lunch, and we provide booth coverage if they need a break.

“We really try to honor and showcase the artists.”

Fleming described the show as highlighting fine arts and crafts, including paintings, sculptures, and high-end handmade furniture and clothing. She says it is not a shabby-chic craft show, but rather a good place for newer artists to “get their feet wet” in a juried experience and for seasoned artists to enjoy a less-expensive, more low-stress art fair.

The event also serves as a fundraiser to support a different community project each year. Last year, boards were painted to add some art to abandoned houses, and this year will support the creation of totems that can be placed throughout various neighborhoods, possibly in parks or gardens, Fleming says.

“Overall, it’s a great place for art shopping. Its free for anyone to come enjoy and walk around and experience the neighborhood and have an afternoon really appreciating beauty in art and in architecture,” Fleming says.

Registration is open for artists to participate at www.artsofo.com. Booth fees before April 1 are $50, and then increase to $75. Visit the website for additional details.

Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.