Get Arsty At The 2018 River Arts Festival

Posted by Holly Whitfield | October 20th 2018 2828 0

Ed. Note: It’s a Memphis tradition – and this year it’s going to be extra special! The River Arts Fest on Oct. 26 and 27 will be on Riverside Drive (blocking off the street) and will also feature the unveiling of the Mighty Lights river bridge light show. Contributor Daniel has all the details. 

Get your artsy souls ready—Memphis’ largest fine arts festival, River Arts Fest, is back for its 12th year!

Photo by Adarryll Jackson, Sr. / Memphis Tourism

Featuring nearly 200 fine artists from across the nation, a variety of live music performances throughout the weekend, and an evening party to celebrate the launch of the biggest light show over the Mississippi River, this year’s River Arts Fest promises to be one for the books.

River Arts Fest is one of my (Daniel’s) personal favorite festivals in Memphis. The festival is designed to cultivate the arts community in our city—profits from it go back into growing the festival and supporting various education initiatives throughout the year.

Photo by Philip Murphy. Courtesy of RiverArtsFest.

Thousands of people attend every year to delight themselves with the amazing work artists from across the country put on display and to, hopefully, bring home some new one-of-a-kind pieces of art. Others just go for the people-watching experience, which is perfectly fine too.

With more than 180-juried fine artists participating, the artists market of RiverArtsFest 2018 will feature original works in painting, photography, ceramics, glass, wood, drawing, jewelry, metalwork, sculpture, and more. 

Allen Gillespie / Memphis Tourism

In addition to the artists market, the festival will also feature a variety of musical acts on their main stage, including the Delta Cats (blues), Lucky 7 Brass Band (funk/jazz), John Mohead (Americana), the Soul Shockers (soul), and many more! Expect to meet some strolling musicians and performing artists along the festival as well, including performances by Tennessee Shakespeare, Opera Memphis, and other local organizations.

The little ones (and even the not-so-little ones) will be able to showcase their own artistic abilities at the festival’s “Hands on Arts” interactive station. And if you’d rather just see how professional artists create their masterpieces, then make sure to check out the “Artist in Motion” stations, which will feature demonstrations on paper-making, wheel pottery, metal sculpture, fused glass, and more.

Photo by Justin Fox Burks

If you are like me and associate fine art with fine wine, the “Arts Bars” throughout the festival will have you covered with specialty cocktails by Old Dominick, beer, and wine. Various food vendors will be on site too.

Though the festival is traditionally held on the South Main Arts District, this year it will take place on Riverside Drive, between Jefferson Avenue and Beale Street, from Saturday, October 27 until Sunday, October 28; this change in location is due to the ongoing construction on South Main.

The new location comes with perks of its own for festival goers  – this will be one of the best locations in town to witness the launch of the Mighty Light’s illumination of the Hernando De Soto Bridge on Saturday, October 27—this will become the biggest nightly light show on the Mississippi River. (See the top of this post for a sneak peek.)

Phillip Van Zandt / Memphis Tourism

As part of the celebration, the festival will offer FREE entry after 5 pm on Saturday, October 27 and the artists market will remain open until 8:30 pm. G3 under the direction of Garry Goin will have you jamming throughout the evening. The lighting of the bridge is set to take place at 8 p.m., with announcements and music from the main stage of the festival.

A few more notes:

– You can get stamped to allow for come/go access
– Leave pets at home along with coolers and alcoholic beverages
– Most artists accept credit cards; but if you need some cash, the festival will also have an ATM on site
– RiverArtsFest 2018 is still looking for volunteers! Check out to get involved.

For even more info, visit: and

Go There:

RiverArtsFest 2018
Riverside Drive, Jefferson Avenue to Beale Street

River Arts Fest Memphis Hours and prices:

Saturday, October 27, 2018

10 am to 5 pm — $5 per person
5 pm to  9 pm — FREE for Mighty Lights celebration
Children 10 and under FREE

Sunday, October 28

10 am to 5 pm — $5 per person
Children 10 and under FREE
“Race for the Cure” participants receive free entry with race bib

About The Author


Daniel Bastardo is a Venezuelan scientist at St. Jude with a genuine love for Memphis. He is a runner and social media enthusiast who is passionate about all things local. Find him on all social media outlets as @dbastardo27.


Author: Holly Whitfield

I write about what’s going on with Memphis music, food, arts, events, sports, people, and culture. Memphians love Elvis and barbeque with a passion that must be seen to be believed, but there is so much more to this place.

Show Comments


  1. Candace says:

    Hope they move RiverArts back to South Main in 2019. Just didnt have same feel as on South Main. River is nice but on that hot asphalt with no green space, it didnt have the artsy, friendly, inviting, diverse & interesting atmosphere of South Main. Felt very closed in & crowded. Seemed like fewer booths. I like seeing artists fro outside the are but it’s also disappointing to see so few Mid South arists represented. And the food choices were minimal. Where were all our great local food trucks? Also no provision made for handicap parking.

    • Holly Whitfield says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Candace. I’d reach out to the organizers directly to be sure that your feedback is received. I know that construction prevented it from taking place in its usual location this year.

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