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Mixed media, monthly

Starline’s 4th Fridays events feature regional artists for evenings of connection and creativity

McHenry County Magazine

Harvard’s 4th Fridays is an art event like no other. The recurring event allows visitors to connect with regional artists in a variety of ways, including a juried art exhibit, juried photo contest, solo exhibits by featured artists, vendors and open artists studios. All of this combined with a beautiful, historic setting creates a truly one-of-a-kind show.

“We’re a unique art experience,” says local photographer Nancy Merkling, creator and producer of 4th Fridays. “Whether people come from Los Angeles, New York City, downtown Chicago or even Harvard, they’ll say ‘I’ve never been to an art event like this before.’”

4th Fridays occurs monthly from January through August, with a month off in September and the grand finale in October. Each show features an array of exclusively regional artists who are hand-selected by a jury. Featured artists span mediums and can include ceramic, sculpture, fiber art, acrylic painting, oil painting and more. There’s also a separate submission process for photographers.  Visitors can expect to see between 40 and 100 different artists each month. 

One of the most unique aspects of the event is that it gives local artisans a chance to meet other creative people and broaden their artistic horizons. “We know that the creative process for artists is one that’s a social process,” says Merkling. “You don’t become inspired and grow and move forward if you’re autonomous. We connect artists with other artists.”

It also gives community members a chance to connect with these artists. All artists who have work featured at the show will be on-site during the event. Resident Starline artists will also be hosting open studios that allow guests to interact with the creators and experience the creative process first-hand. 

“Everyone is welcome here and the energy is really good,” says Merkling. “Relationships are built that would have never happened, and they continue to build because it’s a regular event.”

The event regularly draws anywhere from 600 to 1,000 attendees from around the country. The finale in October can bring in as many as 1,200 to 1,600 people. Along with an abundance of art, visitors can enjoy two cash bars, appetizer tables and four stages of live music.

The event, which first began in 2011, is held in the restored Starline Factory near the heart of Harvard. The venue takes up three blocks and comprises three floors. “The building offers a beautiful backdrop,” says Merkling. “It’s a very eclectic environment.”

4th Fridays are held on the fourth Friday of the month from from 6 to 9 p.m. Starline Factory is located at 300 W. Front St., No. 204, in Harvard. Admission is $10 at the door for adults. Kids 17 and younger will be admitted free of charge with a parent. For more information about 4th Fridays, visit nancymerkling.com/4th-fridays.

When To Go & What to Know
Remaining 4th Friday 2017 dates:

May 26
June 23
July 28
August 25
October 27

Time: 6 to 9 p.m.
Cost: $10 for adults, and children ages 17 and younger will be admitted free with a parent

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