Art Fairs in San Diego

San Diego has a number of art festivals that are held throughout the year. These are usually multi-day events where artists (and sometimes galleries and dealers) come together to showcase and sell works of art. They vary in size and scope, but the largest ones typically involve as many as 200 different artists who cover a wide range of mediums, including paintings, sculptures, jewelry, photographs, prints, and more. Furthermore, each of these categories will have multiple artists that differ based on their subject matter and style. For example, within photography you might find an artist who produces black and white landscapes, one that does long exposure color seascapes, and another that does documentary style travel photography.

At the fair, each artist will setup a booth which is typically a 10x10' or 10x20' space. Most San Diego art fairs are outdoors because of our great weather although a few may be held inside. In my experience, around half of the artists are local to San Diego although that varies by show.

If you are interested in art and perhaps looking to buy a piece for your home or office, art festivals are a great place to visit. You get exposure to a wide range of artists all conveniently located in one spot.

Castle on a Cloud. The California Tower in Balboa Park, San Diego.

What are the advantages of attending an art fair?

The majority of working artists don't have gallery representation, either because they choose not to, their work isn't a good fit for existing galleries, or they are too early in their career. Thus going to a festival may be the only chance you have to see their work in person. This is far superior to looking at pictures online which often don't convey the scale, detail, or presence of the artwork properly.

For most festivals, artists need to apply and are evaluated by a jury before they can exhibit. The jury serves an important role as they are responsible for (1) ensuring the show contains only high quality work and (2) curating a wide variety of art representing different mediums, subject matter, and styles. Jurers are always on the lookout for new artists with fresh work. Attending a fair will give you a broad exposure to whats going on in the arts community today.

An important benefit is the ability to meet with the artist. Unless the booth is hosted by a gallery, most art fairs require the artist to be present. Don't be shy, we love talking about our work. You can, for example, ask questions about the artist's motivation to make a specific piece, the message they are trying to convey, the process they use, the materials that go into the art, or anything else that strikes your fancy.

Finally by attending an art fair and purchasing art you are helping to support the artists and the local community (most art fairs in San Diego are run to benefit local non-profit charities).

List of San Diego Art Fairs

Mission Federal Artwalk (Little Italy)
April 27 & 28, 2024
Held outdoors on India and nearby side streets.

Coronado Art and Wine Festival
May 11, 2024
Held outdoors by 10th and C Ave.

Art in the Village, Carlsbad
June 23, 2024
Held outdoors on State St. and Grand Ave in Carlsbad Village

Artwalk Liberty Station
Aug 2-4, 2024
Held outdoors in Ingram Plaza, Liberty Station

Artwalk Carlsbad
Sept 21 & 22, 2024
Held outdoors on Armada Dr

La Jolla Art and Wine Festival
Sept 28-29, 2024
Held outdoors on Giraud Ave, La Jolla

Art San Diego (Convention Center)
Nov 1-3, 2024

This fair has an entry fee but you can often get free tickets from various sources (e.g. being signed up for their mailing list). Compared to the other fairs, the event has more conceptual art and galleries exhibiting. Prices for artwork may be significantly higher than other fairs.

San Diego Festival of the Arts

This was an annual event that ran for many years but has been closed down by the organizers after 2022. There are no plans to reopen as far as I know.

Afternoon Walk. The joy of walking along the Southern California coast and seeing the wonderful sandstone rock formations and tidepools.

Interested in purchasing art? Here are some tips

When I've gone to art fairs at as an attendee there were always a few artists that I knew beforehand that I wanted to see. But don't limit yourself to those, allow yourself time to explore and see artists you wouldn't otherwise have known about. You might find some gems that will work well for you.

Most artists have work available at multiple price points. If you like a piece but it is too expensive, ask the artist if they have something in a similar style but perhaps smaller that would be within your budget. It's okay to be direct about prices. Many artists will give discounts for purchases of multiple pieces. For 2D artists, you can often save money by buying a print alone and then framing it yourself. Painters will often have reproduction prints of their originals at lower costs even if they are not available at the show itself.

Artists cannot bring their entire inventory to the show. Most will have many other works available and if there is something you are looking for, don't hesitate to ask. However, if what you want is very specific, consider commissioning the artist to make a custom piece.

Finally, keep an eye out for emerging artists. Every successful and well established artist started out small. Sometimes you can find unique and excellent work at very affordable prices

Radiance. Sunlight illuminates this wonderful Banyan tree in Balboa Park.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes I go to art fairs because i want to purchase a piece either for myself or as a gift. But I think one of the best benefits (as an attendee) is being able to take in all of the creative energy and passion from the artists exhibiting. Everyone of them is doing this because they love making art and it shows.

Finally, if you cannot attend a show, most have a list of exhibitors on their webpage which you can search by medium. You can then go and visit their websites but keep in mind that not all works are online and a picture doesn't have the same impact as a physical piece.

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