History of the Festival

The Wausau Festival of Arts has been sponsoring and organizing this annual outdoor art festival since 1965.  Conceived by Edward T. Schoenberger, the first Festival was held on the grounds of the Marathon County Historical Society Museum.  The event featured 42 artists, cultural entertainment, poetry readings, old movies, and scouts selling snacks.

Due to the great success of the first Festival of Arts and tremendous interest from the local community, in 1966, committee members were added and the Festival grounds extended to Yawkey Park and the Woodson YMCA.

In the last 50 years, the Festival of Arts has seen many changes, locations and significant growth, but  has never changed in its mission to foster public interest in and appreciation of the arts.  Now held in Wausau’s beautiful downtown, on the 400 Block and 3rd Street, the Festival proudly features 120 juried fine artists from Wisconsin and across the United States who display their works of art for sale and vie for recognition and generous prizes.  Patrons can enjoy two days of music and entertainment on three stages featuring local favorites, regional and nationally recognized performers.  Local non-profit organizations continue to provide food vending at our two food courts, located on Jefferson and McClellan Streets, offering a variety of delicious food and beverage choices.

In addition to fine art, entertainment and good food, the Festival offers much more.  In the Family Art tent, children and their parents can participate in hands on art projects and young art enthusiasts can purchase works of art donated by Festival artists at the Young Collector Market.  Our Scholarship Silent Auction gives patrons a chance to bid on works of art, donated by Festival artists, and benefit our scholarship program which provides scholarships to local students who are pursuing further education in the arts.  Not readily visible to attendees, but of value to the community, is our Matching Grant Program which assists local non-profit organizations by providing matching funds to purchase art which is displayed in public areas for the enjoyment of all.

The Festival of Arts is proud to be a part of Wausau’s nationally recognized Artrageous Weekend and draws upwards of 20,000 patrons to downtown Wausau annually.   Through the dedicated service of thousands of community volunteers and the continued support of the community, the Festival of Arts is celebrating its 51st year of bringing the fine arts to the city streets and parks of Wausau for all to enjoy!