AAUW’s Art Fair on the Green

In 1959, the first outdoor Art Fair on the Green was sponsored by the Fine Arts Association of La Crosse and it was hoped to become an annual event. Twenty-four of Wisconsin’s leading artists offered their oil and watercolor paintings for sale.

In 1960, artists were charged $1 entry fee and 20% of sales. In 1961, Dr. Dale Kendrick, a first year art professor at the college, joined the Fine Arts Association. To draw attention to the event, rising like a circus tent above the entrance to the Art Fair at State Street, was a huge parachute. It belonged to Dale and he facilitated its use throughout the 60s. What an eye catcher that must have been!

From 1962-65, the art fair was included in the Coulee Region Arts Festival. The entry fee was raised to $5 with 10% of sales. In 1966, the Fine Arts Association was dissolved and the college probably sponsored the fair.

Then in 1967, AAUW took over. The first chairman of the Art Fair was Joan Koonmen, an artist and active branch member.

In 1969, rain on Saturday forced the 40 artists into the corridors of Main Hall, but it didn’t dampen the motivation or enthusiasm and the next year’s event was bigger and better. 1970 brought clear skies and 2400 people attended, each paying fifty cents to attend and there was a $900 profit. In the 1970s, the number of artists and the proceeds continued to grow. In 1977, a location move was made from the green in front of Main Hall to the larger space that we now occupy.

During the 1970s and 80s, the Art Fair was not the only source of scholarship funds. Home tour, Scholarship Bridge and other projects funded scholarships. However, Art Fair proceeds continued to pay for three high school girls to attend summer art camp and for grants each year throughout the decade to three Viterbo and three UW-L female art majors.

In 2007, Art Fair made about $15,000, with $1,500 going to the general fund and the remaining to our Foundation for scholarships.

2008 was the 50th anniversary of the Art Fair and we hosted a celebration for the artists and members on the Saturday evening of the event at the Pump House. At the Fair itself that year, approximately 100 artists participated. This was especially exciting because we were down to about 40 artists in 1998.

Over the years, our scholarships have changed and how we fund them, but we continue to provide opportunities for higher education to talented and deserving students as well as giving grants to local organizations who align with our mission of supporting women. Today our chief fund raiser for scholarships is the Art Fair on the Green. Since our scholarship program began in 1935, we have provided well over a half million dollars in scholarships and grants. In 2020, $30,000 was awarded: nine $1,000 grants to local service agencies and twenty-two $1,000 scholarships to deserving local collegians and to graduating high school seniors in our branch service area!