Arts / Galleries

Your Early Look at The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival — Everything You Need to Know

Friday Fun Returns With the 60 Second Art Dash — and Books Hit the Green


This is first in a series of stories on The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival. Come back to PaperCity The Woodlands for new stories in the lead-up to the beloved arts event.

For the first time since 2016, The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival, which runs April 14 to 16 at Town Green Park, has added Friday events to the schedule. On Friday, April 14th, the much-anticipated arts bonanza will be open from 1 to 5 pm, followed by the Art Dash at 6:30 pm. Now in its 18th year, the Waterway Arts Festival showcases original art in a variety of mediums, along with live music, entertainment, local food, beer and wine, and kids’ art activities for a fun family experience.

Festival hours for the weekend are from 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday April 15th and 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday, April 16th. New this year is Books on the Green, an association with Village Books that will feature local author readings and signings, a writer’s workshop, immersive activities and games, book sales and a writing scholarship competition.

The Waterway Arts Festival serves as a fundraiser for the Woodlands Arts Council.

“We gave away over $90,000 in the last year in microgrants and scholarships,” the festival’s marketing and programs manager Claire Karl says. In all the Arts Council has given away more than $1.3 million since the organization’s founding in 2005.

The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival, which began in 2006 with the first juried artists, started as a small show in the courtyard of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion for Texas artists. It has grown into the No. 1 fine arts show in Texas and the No. 6 fine arts show in America, based on artists’ sales.

This year, more than 600 artists applied for one of the 200 available booths. According to Karl, one reason for The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival’s popularity among artists is how much the local community embraces the artists. Each year on opening day of the festival, a team of judges representing The Woodlands Arts Council review art from all the participating artists to select a Featured Artist and Best of Show Winners. The judges are local gallery owners, art teachers, artists and business professionals. Artists are scored on artistic merit and on booth presentation.

Art Dash Mania

As a prelude to the festival, the highlight of Friday evening is the 60 Second Art Dash, in which ticket holders have the opportunity to quickly dash to select a coveted original art piece donated by festival artists.

The event is co-chaired by Paul Pettie and his husband Ian Ramirez.

“As someone whose life was forever changed by the beauty and creativity of art, I believe it is our responsibility to ensure that it remains accessible to all,” Pettie tells PaperCity The Woodlands.

VIP artists donate works for the Art Dash. During the dash, five names are called at intervals and those called have 60 seconds to run to their selected piece of art.

“It’s a really fun night and the artists are there and it’s our way of saying thank you to those artists that donate their pieces,” Karl says. “And to show them how much our community loves them.”

The Art Dash will be at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott ballroom from 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm. Tickets for the evening are available for $150, and Dash tickets are an additional $250. Table sponsorships are available for $5,000 each, and come with perks.

The Art Dash is a fundraiser for the student art scholarship program.

“Last year we raised $40,000 that we just gave that away in January to 16 graduating seniors from Montgomery County,” Karl says. Student art scholarship range from $1,000 to $6,000

Waterway Arts Festival Tips

There are five entrances to the festival around Town Green Park, and the Woodlands Township Town Center Trolley is the best way to get dropped off right at the main gate. Park anywhere around The Woodlands and jump on the free trolley.

Tickets for the Festival are available online and at the gate, but gate tickets cost more the day of the event. Weekend passes are available for $28, and daily admission tickets run $16. Students, seniors and veterans tickets are $11, and kids under 12 are free.

The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival is quite a creative scene.
The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival is quite a creative scene.

VIP weekend packages are available for $200, and include a swag bag, VIP parking, access to a Terrace hospitality lounge and light bites.

Leashed dogs under 35 pounds are allowed on festival grounds, along with strollers and wagons.

With 200 jury-selected artists from the United States and other countries, the festival’s art takes many forms. These include jewelry, painting, fiber, glass, wood, drawing, sculpture, metalworks, 3D mixed media and ceramics, and there is art for every budget. The 2023 featured artist is ceramicist Cathra-Anne Barker, who’s work has been in every Waterway Arts Festival since 2008.

This is an arts fest that has something for everyone. From the high school graduate looking for some art for their dorm room to a casual art lover who wants to pick up some $15 prints to collectors seeking out original pieces of art in the hundreds of dollars and sculpture valued in the thousands.

A Kids Arts Wonderland

There will be activities for the whole family in the Artopoly kids’ area on the weekend, presented with The Woodlands Children’s Museum. Artopoly will have four to five art projects provided by local nonprofits and a community stage where local groups will provide entertainment.

Masterpiece Mania is another family area where families, teenagers and grandma can sit down and create art together. Masterpiece Mania will have workshops for the whole family on Saturday and Sunday. Workshop signups are available on site.

A community mural will be painted on site by Vickie McMillan and will hang afterward in the spotlight gallery at The Woodlands Mall, continuing The Woodlands’ tradition of having interesting public art in unexpected places.

Waterway Arts Festival Volunteers Needed

More than 600 volunteers are needed throughout The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival in three-hour shifts.  Volunteers can serve as gate greeters, work at beverage booths or work on artist relations teams. Volunteers get:

— Volunteer exclusive T-shirt

— Commemorative pin when shift is complete

— Snacks and water provided during shift

— Free admission to the festival before and after a shift

Do you have even more time to contribute to the community? Volunteer for two shifts and you’ll get an extra festival admission ticket.

Here’s the link to sign up to volunteer. There is a required training session in early April.

The art fun is coming.

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