The Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit is a twice-a-year happening every Memorial Day Weekend and the weekend that follows and every Labor Day Weekend and the weekend that follows that. The event showcases fine artists and craft artisans from around the New York metropolitan area, the nation and the world. Attendees come from all over and are a cosmopolitan mix, including art lovers, tourists, faculty and students from the area’s many schools and professionals such as interior designers. Exhibit categories include fine arts, graphics, mixed media, oils and acrylic, watercolor, photography, sculpture, crafts, jewelry, metal work, ceramics, glass mixed media, fiber and wood.
The show is a sidewalk show, not a street fair, and has its venue on University Place, starting at East 13th Street and continuing south along the east side of Washington Square Park to West 3rd Street. The southern end of the show encompasses Schwartz Plaza, (aka Bobkin Lane), between NYU’s Shimkin Hall and Bobst Library.
The tradition of this show began on one balmy spring day in 1931, in the midst of the Depression Era. Jackson Pollock, desperately in need of funds to pay the rent on his Greenwich Village studio that also served as his home, took a few of his iconoclastic paintings down several flights of stairs and set them up on the sidewalk near Washington Square Park. His friend and fellow Village artist, Willem DeKooning, in equally desperate financial straits, soon joined him.
It is not known how many works of art, whose values would soon skyrocket, they sold that day. However, their enterprise was noted by some public-spirited citizens, including such luminaries of the art world as Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, founder of the Whitney Museum of Art, and Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Director of the Museum of Modern Art.
They organized the art show that would evolve into the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit, a twice-a-year happening, every Memorial Day Weekend and the weekend that follows, and every Labor Day Weekend and the weekend that follows.
Early exhibitors were Village artists Alice Neel, Saul Berman and Ilya Bolotowski. Beauford Delaney trekked down from Harlem. It is now a showcase for artists regionally, nationwide, and around the world, and is attended by art lovers from all over the world.
Among the milestones that mark its more than 80 years are the concept of the artists being selected as exhibitors by a jury of fellow artists, based on slides of their work being submitted; the abolishing of an early ban on nudes; the opening of the show to photography as an art form; and the recognition of crafts, provided each piece is one-of-a-kind and hand-made.
Cash prizes, donated by individuals, organizations and corporations, are awarded in various categories based on selection by artist-judges.
Make a $30 donation and get a 2014 WSOAE show poster featuring Leon Loughridge’s woodblock print of “Washington Square Arch.” The WSOAE 2013 show poster is on 11 x 18 cardstock. Quantities are limited. Contact WSOAE to get yours now: 212.982.6255 or email firstname.lastname@example.org