Best of Show

Appears in the September 2023 issue.

The Riverwalk Fine Art Fair continues to draw world-class artists

Riverwalk Fine Art Fair

Who knows? You may just stumble upon a future Picasso or Pollock.

Recognized as one of the top outdoor art fairs in the country, the Riverwalk Fine Art Fair (RFAF) features 105 artists in 14 mediums, from ceramics and glass to watercolors and wood. “Whether you’re looking for something fun and whimsical or contemplative and powerful, it can be found here,” says Deborah Venezia, the fair’s director. “The streets are abuzz with shoppers, art appreciators, riverwalk walkers, and those just wishing to explore.”

An artist at Riverwalk Fine Art Fair

Hosted by the Naperville Art League, the 38th annual fair is expected to attract more than 45,000 attendees during its two-day run this month along the riverwalk. The displayed work, including home decor, toys, and yard art, is up for sale. And if all the browsing gives you the munchies, Angeli’s Restaurant and Catering will have a food booth onsite. For the kids, the DuPage Children’s Museum will have an activity tent in the parking lot at Jackson Avenue and Main Street. Acappellago and the DuPage Symphony Orchestra will be performing as well.

Of course, the fair is a serious competition too. For artists, just securing an invitation gets competitive since the RFAF juries its participants every year. “It’s often a complicated process, with hundreds of hopefuls vying for one of 105 spots, but it keeps the show fresh and relevant,” Venezia explains. Then, during the fair, hired judges visit the booths and assess the work. They grant nine awards—one Best of Show, four Awards of Excellence, and four Merit Awards. The winning artists receive cash prizes as well as an invitation to return next year; they will be exempt from jury selection.

A seller at Riverwalk Fine Art Fair

“We always put the focus on the artists,” Venezia says. “Many festivals have large music stages and activities that draw attention away from the artwork. We chose not to do that—a decision that the exhibitors appreciate. Instead, we partner with the artists and implement their suggestions. They are the headliners responsible for elevating the RFAF to new heights.”

When the Naperville Art League debuted the event in 1985, it was the area’s first juried fine-art fair—and also snagged worldwide attention thanks to an AP photo of the fair’s reenactment of the George Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Dozens of community volunteers dressed in rented period costumes posed to recreate the scene for an audience.

“Today RFAF stands on its own merit,” Venezia says. The fair has evolved to become the Naperville Art League’s signature event—as well as its primary income source, enabling the nonprofit to offer classes for adults and kids and gallery exhibits year-round.

For more information, visit

September 16 - 17

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On Jackson Avenue between Main and Eagle Streets


Photos: John E. Balzer (crowd scene); Craig VanderKolk; Deborah Venezia