Twenty years ago, a small art festival was started on West Street as two businesses agreed to host art receptions at the same time on the first Sunday of each month. The businesses, 49 West Coffeehouse & Gallery and ARTFX Gallery hosted the monthly event and provided food, wine, music, and artist demonstrations on the sidewalk between them.
The following year in front of these businesses, West Street was shut down to rebrick the sidewalk and street so neighboring businesses banded together in partnership with the Inner West Street Association to expand on the success of the First Sunday Arts receptions by hosting art events in their business and found 10 artists to set up in the street to create a festive arts market during a year of construction. This event has slowly grown over the years to host about 130 artisans at each event filling additional blocks of West Street and Peoples Park (formally Whitmore Park) on Calvert Street. The event also features up to four areas of free entertainment when running at full capacity.
This event would not exist without dedicated business owners and residents along West Street that volunteered over the years to keep this event running. Erik Evans the former co-owner of the ARTX gallery and a nearby resident volunteered with the festival for over 15 years before becoming the Executive Director of Inner West Street Association. Jim Martin who owned Free State Press and is now retired has volunteered for 18 years with the festival and Larry Griffin from We Care and Friends, and nearby residents Don Lamb-Minor and Jennifer Evans have volunteered for years to help set up and organize the festival each month. The event also has been honored to work with and support thousands of artists over the past two decades.
Last year during COVID this event worked with local city and county governments to create a smaller, safe, socially distanced First Sunday Arts market that allowed 50 artists that wished to continue selling in-person at the events the ability to have a safe outdoor selling option. The event also partnered with the Annapolis Arts District and the Chaney Foundation to create an online virtual festival for about 250 artisans that have been a part of the festival over the years. The grant allowed the festival to offer this benefit to all the artists at no cost. As additional support for our artists during the pandemic, the First Sunday Arts notified vendors as grants became available throughout the year for artists, musicians, and sole proprietors.
The First Sunday Arts events will resume on Sunday, May 2nd starting its second decade on the first block of West Street from 11 am to 5 pm. The event will feature 50 artisans selling paintings, photography, jewelry, woodturning, glass art, home décor, and more. The event will follow current health and safety protocols. First Sunday Arts is currently planning to expand its footprint adding additional artisan vendors and bring back live music starting with the July 4th event.
These popular monthly art markets will continue on the first Sunday of the month through November on West Street in downtown Annapolis, Maryland. You can also shop 250 of the First Sunday Arts artisans online anytime at www.firstsundayarts.com/virtualfestival
First Sunday Arts original tagline of “Where Community and Arts Fuse” is still relevant today as it continues its free-admission arts event, with free garage parking available all day at the Calvert Street Parking Garage (19 St. Johns Street) and until 4 pm at the Whitmore Parking Garage (25 Clay Street).
“Inner West Street Association creates events for locals by locals,” says Erik Evans the Executive Director of the Inner West Street Association. “Inner West Street Association events also include Dinner Under the Stars and the Annapolis Chocolate Binge Festival which have made West Street a fun place for the community to hang out, eat, shop, enjoy the arts, and fill the City parking garages.” The organization is self-funded by a dedicated group of local residents, businesses, sponsors, vendors, Board of Directors, and volunteers.