From out back to front and center


Vendors and artists gather at Picnic Rocks Park on the shore of Lake Superior to showcase paintings, wood work and more. Photo courtesy of Cindy Engle.

Maggie Duly

For the past 25 years, Cindy Engle has been putting on an art fair for local artists to gather, sell and showcase their work. The Outback Art Fair has grown tremendously over the years starting with originally 25 artists to over 100 local and out of town artists and vendors.

“It’s grown and the desire to be in the show has grown,” Engle said. “The number of people that come home that weekend to attend the show and people from all over the country come and enjoy that weekend- art weekend in Marquette.”

The Outback Art Fair takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m on July 27-28.

Many aspects of the event have changed over the years. When Engle and a couple of friends decided they wanted to provide a place for artists to show at preferably a low cost, she offered up her own property out back behind her art gallery in Beaver Grove. Thus coining the name Outback Art Fair.

“We just felt that when you’re from town and it’s one of your biggest shows of the year to make money, and not have expenses, that they needed to be able to have a way to display,” Engle said.

After the first year, Engle sold the gallery in Beaver Grove, located a couple miles south of Harvey, and was anxious to find another venue to keep the event going. Shiras Park Picnic Rocks was offered to her and she decided it was the most reasonable option after having looked at other local alternatives.

“As a kid we went to the beach at Picnic Rocks, but I didn’t know there was a park there because I hadn’t been by that area, now it’s one of my favorite places in the earth,” Engle said.

Each year Engle tries to keep the amount of people participating to around 100 so the show doesn’t feel overcrowded and the artists can have optimal recognition and profits. Artists and vendors can apply for a space in the art fair by early January, but the show is normally full by February.

There is an array of mediums at the art fair from photography, glass, wood work and jewelry to soaps and body care products.

“It’s a little different than other finer art shows,” Engle said. “I believe that each one of these things is an art so we try to keep the numbers down but have the variety.”

The show began with rather local talent and Engle chooses to maintain that reputation, but there are still opportunities for out of town and out of the U.P. artists.

Many of the artists and vendors in the Outback show return year after year. After running the art fair for close to three decades, Engle has been able to connect with the artists in her show and build lasting relationships with them.

“This is like our family, some of these people have been with me 21 to 22 years,” Engle said.

The show is located right on the shore of Lake Superior where visitors can enjoy classic art, a beautiful view and various food options throughout the day.