Art on the Rocks: Over half a century of history, art

The 2019 show poster for the Art on the Rocks fine art fair is designed by artist Christopher Schmidt. Photo courtesy of

Maggie Duly

Crowds of people flood through rows of booths filled with paintings, ceramics, drawing, jewelry and more. Scents of fresh food blows through the harbor with Lake Superior’s breeze as the cloths under the displayed art flutter in the air.

Artists travel from all across the United States to participate in the Art on the Rocks art show in Marquette’s downtown Mattson Lower Harbor Park on the last weekend in July. Through a long process, applicants are handpicked by three judges using a scoring system. The judges review images of the artists’ work and their set up that they intend to exhibit at the show.

“In terms of space we can show as many artists to fill the park but to keep the quality of the show high, we jury the artists to have a stellar line up,” Art on the Rocks Director Jason Limberg said.

The judges aim to have a balance of all mediums of art displayed at the show, Limberg said.

After directing the show for the past five years, Limberg said one of the best parts is all the returning artists that take part in the show year after year.

“We get to personally know artists and see their growth” Limberg said. “Also, Art on the Rocks is a great show in terms of crowd turn out for the participating artists, so many come back.”

During the show, judges walk throughout the booths and score artists on certain criteria to help decide the line-up for the following year.

“We have three judges that go to every booth of the show and have a guideline of qualities they are looking for,” Limberg said. “This includes craftsmanship and concept. The artists that score in the top 30% are invited back next year, meaning they don’t have to be juried in.”

The remaining 70% of artists in the show go through the jurying process.

Art on the Rocks originally started 60 years ago on the rocks where the Father Marquette statue stands then it moved to Presque Isle and finally to Lower Harbor Park.

Even though the exclusive art is the big allure to the show, there are more vendors and activities to experience at the two day event.

“NMU art students have an awesome booth to display and sell their artworks,” Limberg said. “There is a great lineup of food and beverages, an area for kids to create art and terrific music. Also, there is sitting areas for the crowd to sit back, enjoy summer and socialize.”

This year’s show falls on July 27 and 28 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.