Twice a year, Tempe's famous Mill Avenue—along with its cross streets between University and 3rd—closes to traffic and a sea of white pop-up tents appears. The closure means the eagerly awaited return of the Tempe Festival of the Arts.
This nearly five-decade tradition—48 years for the Fall Festival—sees upwards of 400 artists from all over the country arrive to show their original works. Offerings range from the traditional paintings, sculptures and jewelry to more modern categories like “Cottage Edibles & Crafts” and “Upcycled/Creative Reuse.”
The push toward more cutting-edge categories led to this year's introduction of Sixth + Mill Makers. Located at Sixth and Mill—naturally—this new market-within-a-festival offers curated hand-made works from more than two dozen local artisans.
According to the festival's press release, items on display and for sale include “buttons, cards, ceramics, children’s clothing, concrete planters, floral arrangements, hand‐made jewelry, letterpress stationary, upcycled furniture, watercolors, woodworks and more.”
In addition to these handmade products, visitors to the market can enjoy “artisan finishing salts, cocktail mixes, a lounge and 'make and take' booth for hands‐on types who like to physically make memories at the event.”
Samantha Thompson, co-founder of Standard Wax, which curates Sixth + Mill Makers, sees this addition as vital for the future of art in Tempe.
“As someone who has spent nearly my entire life in Tempe, I know firsthand that the Tempe Festival of the Arts is an institution. But the 'new' scene of creative entrepreneurs and makers ... has never been represented at the festival,” she explains. “Until recently, my passions for the city I live in and my business have had little opportunity to reside in the same space together.”
With Sixth + Mill Makers, Tempe Festival for the Arts can now attract a new generation of artists, makers and buyers.
Speaking of new generations, kids also get new activities to explore this year with Kids Block. This area offers art-making activities, plus other hands-on fun. A showcase of kid-created art will also be on hand to inspire other youngsters.
Despite the new additions, however, you will still see old festival favorites, such as Chalk-A-Lot-Street on 4th, which features professional chalk murals—and lets you create your own for $5.
Sounds as well as sights can be experienced with local performers on three stages—5th Street, Centerpoint and Hayden Square—as well as street performers. The sensory experience is rounded out with festival food from the on-site food court, food trucks and scattered snack vendors.
Note for drivers: Mill Avenue will close at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday and stay closed until 6 a.m. Dec. 5.