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Mystic Outdoor Art Festival – Guess Who’s Turning ...

Mystic Outdoor Art Festival – Guess Who’s Turning Sixty?

What: The 60th Annual Mystic Outdoor Art Festival
When: Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 to Sunday Aug.13, 2017
Times: Saturday 10:00am to 6:00pm / Sunday 10:00am to 5:00pm
Place: Downtown Mystic, CT
Admission: Free

Mystic with its Aquarium and Old Mystic Seaport, quaint downtown, and Mystic Museum of Art, is already the most highly visited vacation spot in all of Connecticut, but there’s one weekend each year that trumps all others as far as influx of visitors — its preeminent art festival. Imagine a summer weekend with 85,000 people converging from all over the U.S. to experience outstanding art, shopping, dining or just strolling about a historical maritime setting.

Celebrating 60 Years of Growth

The Mystic Outdoor Art Festival was launched sixty years ago when local business owners and art lovers proposed that downtown Mystic pattern a festival after the then famous Washington Square Festival in New York.

And so they did. That nascent start, in its first year, attracted a hundred artists and 5,000 visitors, the word began to spread, its reputation gained in stature, and it never looked back.

Mystic Outdoor Art Festival 1981
Mystic Outdoor Art Festival in 1981 – photo courtesy Richard Dixon

Today the Mystic Outdoor Art Festival, hosted by the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, is one of the largest, of its kind in the Northeast. This year it will feature 250 artists from all corners of the U.S. and bring more than 100,000 works of arts and crafts including oils, watercolors, photographs, pastels, sculpture, woodwork, comics, acrylics, and more.

Susette Tibus, owner of the Simply Majestic jewelry store in Mystic has been the past Chair of the event for many years and offered her observation, “Some of the trends that I have seen more of is creative digital photography, and more wood and fiber art.”

The event is a “juried art show” which basically means that there is a vetting process by jurors to assure artists meet the show’s qualification level. Recognition will also be given to the best work of art in several categories.

Outdoor Art Festival

On celebrating the 60th anniversary, Peggy Roberts, President of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, reflected, “We are honored to have so much support from the community for this 60th anniversary festival.  From the artists to the patrons to the volunteers, we are beyond fortunate to have this wonderful event.  And everyone has worked hard to make this year better than ever!”

Susette Tibus added, “Mystic is like one big party that weekend. The art is so important, but there is a huge social aspect to this weekend. Families and friends take the opportunity to eat in the restaurants and shop in the stores. Also, there are many nonprofits like the Rotary selling lemonade and the Boy Scouts selling hot dogs… this is a sight to see.”

photo courtesy Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce

What’s the Secret Sauce?

What makes this event grow in popularity with each succeeding year? Well, the basics are covered. It attracts the top artists who bring along their best works. Add to that a highly organized and safe environment where visitors can soak up the ambiance…and did I mention
there’s no entrance fee?

But the kicker has to be the enchanting Mystic River. Today, on this timeless estuary, modern day kayakers and paddleboarders pass by a 175-year-old Charles W. Morgan whaling ship in a time-warped juxtapositioning. In fact, Susan Noyes, one of the festival’s artists captured this very concept on her acrylic painting, “Time Passages”, which has become the symbol of this anniversary event.

The original painting “Time Passages” by Susan Noyes will be raffled off, tickets and prints available at the festival

Then there’s the 100-year-old functioning Mystic Bascule Drawbridge. And from that bridge you can look up river to see the tall ships of Mystic Seaport and then look down river to see modern yachts and sailboats docked at the local marinas, with the occasional foreign flagged mega yacht befitting of Newport. And docked right at the bridge is the tall ship “Argia” which you can also take a scenic ride on out into Long Island Sound.

Children’s Art Park

Don’t feel art is only for adults and you have to leave the kids behind, there’s plenty of fun things for them to do. There’s the beautiful grassy park along the river to watch the boats pass by under the drawbridge. And there are docks if you’re so inclined to fish. For your energetic teens, there are a couple of kayak and paddleboard rental places within walking distance.

During the festival, the “Children’s Art Park” is a great way for your kids to make some art of their own. According to Peggy Roberts, “A highlight this year will be the Children’s Art Park, in the Mystic River Park, where kids can make their own masterpieces.  Sponsors will be on hand to help kids make pirate hats and fairy wands, learn how to weave fabrics, and make aquatic life art, as well as many other activities. Afterward they can have their photo taken at a ship’s wheel too.”

A Foodie’s Paradise

Mystic is renowned for its fine dining and this weekend will be no exception. There are wonderful spots up and down Main Street such as Bravo Bravo, Chapter One, drwb@24, and Harp and Hound.

Then there are those restaurants noted for their food but especially their exquisite river views such as S&P Oyster and Red 36.

The iconic Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream Shop, also on the river, actually makes their own ice cream from scratch, and it’s second to none. You can sit on the railing and watch the bridge go up and down…it never gets old.

On Water Street, there are Pizzetta and the Daniel Packer Inne and two world class establishment such as the Oyster Club which was voted one of the best restaurants in the country, and Sift Bake Shop which is in a class of its own, where pastry is art, a must visit.

The most highly photographed icon in all of Mystic

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Mystic Pizza. Amazing, that movie was released nearly 30 years ago yet the restaurant’s name is as popular as ever (the building is actually not where the movie was shot, but who cares) and their sign is the most highly photographed icon in all of Mystic, if not all of Connecticut. Selfie anyone? There’s even a “Mystic Pizza Movie Trail” you can take to see the actual locations in the original film.

All places to eat downtown

Lots to Do – Extend your Stay

But Mystic is much more than just a once-a-year art festival…it’s a sense of place with much to do: the Aquarium, the Seaport, the Art Museum, a ride on the Argia, fishing charters…the list goes on.

Full list of Mystic attractions

So come and enjoy the art festival but allow enough time to do all these other wonderful things. See you at the festival.

About the Author
Al Valente lives and works in Mystic. He is a former writer for, and Editor-in-Chief of FitCommerce, an online health and wellness publication. He has served as president of the Downtown Mystic Merchants Association in 2016 and 2017.

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