African Festival of the Arts

Dates: Labor Day Weekend: Friday -Monday, September 1-4, 2023
Location: Washington Park – Chicago, IL
Hours: 10AM-10PM daily
Attendance: 250,000
Demographics: African American Families
Beneficiary: Africa International House
Theme: Celebration of African Culture


In a city that prides itself in the quantity and quality of its summer festivals, The African Festival of the Arts (AFA) is one of Chicago’s crown jewels.   Drawing hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country over the Labor Day weekend, African Festival of the Arts is considered to be the single largest African-centered event in the USA and the most important of its kind in Chicago.

African Festival of the Arts is the flagship program of the Africa International House (AIH). 

During its 33 -year history, this four- day event has stayed perfectly true to its mission: to promote, preserve and propagate African American culture. The AFA is a series of festivals within a festival built around African culture: art, music, dance, history and current interests and pursuits. 

Stimulation is the operative word used to describe the African Festival of the Arts (AFA). The visitor’s first rush of sights, sounds and sweet and savory smells are almost overwhelming. The senses can barely take it all in.  The event is jam packed with cultural entertainment, education, shopping, food, drink and fun including:

  • A Fine Arts Pavilion where more than $1M in art sales are exchanged.
  • An African Market.
  • A Drum Village.
  • Three entertainment stages.
  • National music headliners.
  • Sponsorable pavilions that focus on  African Heritage, literature, automotive, family and children, technology, spirituality, business/finance, green/energy, wellness/fitness, dance, education, film, fashion and others. 
  • An international food court.

The Art:

The Fine Arts Pavilion features hundreds of thousands of pieces of collectible art including everything from original oils, watercolors, pastel, mixed media, acrylics, wood, and metal sculptures, along with wearable art and jewelry. All art displayed at the AFA is juried and selected by a panel of experts. Hundreds of artists compete for the privilege of showing and selling their art. More than a million dollars in art sales occur in the Fine Art Pavilion each year.

Events & Venues

Please click on the month for the events list.
Download a .pdf of the entire Event Calendar

January Events

There are no events listed for this month.

February Events

Randolph Street Market

March Events

St Paddys Day Run

May Events

American Brain Tumor Walk
The Lucky 13
Do Division
Southwest Half Marathon
San Diego Taco Fest
Randolph Street Market
Taste of Mexico
Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival
Sheffield Music Festival
Lincoln Park Greek Fest

November Events

Polish Independence 10K Run/Walk
Randolph Street Market

Year Round Opportunities

Norine Smyth

Sponsor Chicago Logo

The Market:

The African Market is the ‘shopping center’ of AFA. The ambience, aromas, colors, products, and transactions are true to the markets of Africa. Shoppers browse among the offerings of museum quality African art, unique beads, fabric, sculptures, baskets, musical instruments, clothing and wearable art.

The Drums:

Lending ambience to the festival is the Drum Village, led by Master Drummers Olu Shakoor and Baba Tyemba Mtu. The Drum Village operates continuously featuring world class drumming performed by some of the best drummers from around the world.

The Music & Entertainment:

AFA has three music stages, but music seems to be everywhere at the AFA.  Every music offering- from the music of the world class drummers, to Blues, to House Music, and to mainstream national headliners- represents the very best in its class. Music is offered continuously throughout the event- a steady, three-day outpouring of the crème de la crème of African based music. Recent past national music headliners on the Mainstage included Angelique Kidjo, Chaka Khan, India Arie, Temptations, Julie Dexter with VLE, India Arie, Tito Jackson, Soweto Street Band, Brandy, Avant,Ahmad Jamal, Kool & the Gang, George Clinton, Erykha Badu, MC Lyte, Rachelle Ferrell, Les Nubians, and more.

Sponsorship Opportunity

The African Festival of the Arts’ Sponsor Benefits Menu offers sponsors a variety of ways to elevate, showcase and connect your brand to this audience of more than 250,000 African Americans in a relaxed and friendly setting.

The Sponsor Benefits Menu includes but is not limited to:

• Naming Rights to the event, event attractions, various pavilions.African Festival of the Arts
• Logo inclusion in TV and print ads; collateral
• Tags in radio spots
• Links, logos and landing pages on event website
• PR Inclusion
• Signage
• Stage Signage
• Exclusive on-site sales
• On-site activation with varying footprint sizes ranging from 100’X100’ to 10’X10’
• VIP live welcomes on various stages and pavilions
• Customized promotions
• Hospitality
• Merchandising
• Use of marks and logos