Jul 21, 2023 - Things to Do

Road trip: Salem's annual art fair — and fantastic food

A man wearing a straw hat stands in front of tall turquoise pots.

Art of all kinds in Salem this weekend. Photo: Courtesy of Salem Art Association

If you're not trekking to Taylor or enjoying happenings in Portland, how about heading south for weekend fun in — Salem?

🎨 Friday through Sunday, the 74th Salem Art Fair & Festival takes over Bush's Pasture Park — 90 acres of woods, meadows, paths and play areas smack in the center of town.

Details: There will be 240 mainly local and regional artists showing and selling works in a wide range of media.

  • Some may be familiar from past festivals, like jewelry maker Elisa Saucy.
  • Others are new, including Reeve Carter, whose wooden bowls and cutting boards show off elaborate geometric designs.
  • Over half the artists are female or nonbinary, coordinator Anna Davis tells Axios, and twice as many artists of color are showing compared to last year.

Context: The Salem Art Association has joined an effort by museums around the country to address underrepresentation of artists who are female, nonbinary and people of color.

  • This includes a new look at the legacy of pioneer Asahel Bush, whose former home is now the museum and his former farm the park around it.
  • Bush founded a newspaper and bank, and was politically influential. He also supported Oregon's exclusion laws that forbade Black people from living in the state.
  • "Some folks in the Oregon Black Pioneers came to us and said, 'Listen, you're basically telling a half-truth about this guy,'" Salem Art Association executive director Matthew Boulay told Axios. "'Tell the full story.' And so that's what we've begun to do."

Pro tip: The Bush House Museum is open and free during the festival.

😋 Emily here, with a bonus tip on Salem sustenance. The fair has food and drink vendors on site, including local Gilgamesh Brewing, a family business that started in a woodworking shop and Gracie's hot pink food truck, serving ice cream nachos and bubble waffles.

  • But if you haven't been out to eat in Salem lately, save some room for tacos on the patio at Xicha Brewing, my favorite spot there, or small plates at Rudy's Steakhouse, home of the best burger north of San Francisco, according to Axios reader Don P.

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