First Sunday Arts Festival is a Sunday afternoon stroll in Annapolis at its best. Dogs are out smiling with their two-legged friends, children enjoy the view from atop their parents’ shoulders, restaurant-goers overflow out into the street, and shoppers peruse authentic local goods from the town’s skilled artisans. Sometimes you can catch your favorite vendors a few months in a row or perhaps you’ll stumble upon one you’ve never seen before. The variety of offerings is ever-changing, making for a fresh experience each time you visit.

At the festival, I’m always pleased to see a great mix of products: photography, painting, jewelry, and home goods. Even some fun backyard cornhole accessories. During this year’s first Sunday Arts Festival in May, I visited one of my favorite crafters, Open Eyes Press, which makes vintage inspired textiles and prints. While I shopped, the vendor and I were able to chat about the great vibe of the festival from both a shopper’s and a vendor’s perspective, and share in our enthusiasm for making and sharing art.

Despite the bustle of the scene, you can get to know the artists and ask about the processes, techniques, and philosophies behind the goods they offer. These exchanges make you feel as though you are bringing home someone’s story and passion for their craft along with your purchase.

Artwork-made-at-Providence-CenterOne such story I’ve discovered at the First Sunday Arts Festival is that of the Providence Center, a local nonprofit serving adults with developmental disabilities through art, pottery, woodshop, and horticulture programs, among many other services. Each participant earns a paycheck for his or her work, providing a sense of independence, and sales go directly back into funding the nonprofit’s programs, which is why I don’t ever seem to bat an eye when shopping their gorgeous selection of handmade items. Providence Center will be setting up to sell their amazing products throughout several First Sundays.

Live performers are everywhere at the festival but never so loud or competitive that you feel overwhelmed, just wrapped in the atmosphere of sound filling the stages of Calvert Street and the Stan & Joe’s Lot. Dancers, aerialists and acrobats, and performers of all cultures and practices surprise attendees each month with the graceful moves they have in store.

During June's First Sunday Arts Festival, internationally renowned local artist Jeff Huntington painted a mural on the facade of Tsunami titled "Agony and Ecstasy Live Together in Perfect Harmony". If you missed it, check out the amazing time-lapse video of the two-day process by Power Play Creations here.

Whether it inspires you to shop, dance in the street, or just people-watch from your cafe seat, First Sunday Arts Festival is a great way to get to know the town in a snapshot. Brick-lined streets underfoot, historic architecture on either side, with beautiful St. Anne’s Church flanking the festival’s end, you’ll step back in time amongst the modern, as you can do best in Naptown. Public art produced by local non-profit ArtWalk adorns the scenery as well, showcasing Annapolis’s diverse community arts. Expect to see nods to France throughout the festival for June’s First Sunday, as Annapolis welcomes the French Tall Ship Hermione to Annapolis!

[caption id="attachment_2783" align="alignright" width="400"]First Sunday Arts Festival First Sunday Arts Festival[/caption]

Parking for the festival is easily accessed from the neighboring Whitmore garage and Gotts Court Garage, making it a more manageable outing for patrons with lesser mobility. The conveniently close parking also allows you to get right down to business, browsing local art and crafts and grabbing a delicious lunch in one of Annapolis’s most scenic historic blocks of town. On one side of the street, you can travel to Mexico, enjoying a margarita and the authentic tastes of El Toro Bravo (50 West Street). On the other side, you can step into a Parisian cafe, enjoying the fresh, decadent flavors and ambiance of 49 West (49 West Street). All the while experiencing a stretch of quintessential Annapolis.

The First Sunday Arts Festival takes place the first Sunday of every month from May through October, noon to 5pm, on Inner West and Calvert Street, so you have several opportunities to take advantage of this fun and relaxing day with family and friends. For more information, click here.