July 08, 2006

Art Festivals, Pro and Con

Oak Park Festival, c. 1982

Tis the season and several blogs are discussing the pros and cons of outdoor art festivals, including Allison and Lisa. These blogs happen to be referring to the same Denver affair, but looking at the quality of artists involved, it appears to be an example of the norm across the country. My own thoughts, based on experience of about ten of my earliest career years has to do with timing and goals.

Sometimes we don't have a lot of options to choose from and getting accepted into the best festivals possible at least gets you and your art out there and circulating... maybe even winning a prize or two. And... art is placed in front of people who probably would not make the effort to look for it elsewhere, and helps educate them in the appreciation department just a bit. My forte was primarily serigraphs at the time and I taught a lot of curious people what screen printing was all about. Even argued with some who insisted on buying the original... sigh! Even as a neophyte artist, focused on my own development, I learned a lot of what I know from other artists and their products. Especially, appreciation of fine crafts as art... wow! A bonus was the experience of actually talking about your work to interested, and not so interested customers. Even a glance your way, maybe a double take, maybe a slowing down to look a little closer, served to tell you something about your presentation.

Having said that, as far as I'm concerned, BTDT! I have little desire to visit many festivals these days. It's probably as much my distaste for the *crowd* thing as the déjà vu factor. I've done the little ones such as local art club gatherings at a strip center, to the big juried affairs that draw name artists from across the country. I wouldn't trade anything for those years, they were a ladder of sorts to climb when there was no other option out there. But I wouldn't pack up and do it again for anything either. Gallery contacts were made and I grew from there. Never did like to push my own work anyway.


Lisa Call said...

Interesting post. Although I will never be a festival artist it is very helpful to hear about the experiences of those that are. It always reinforces my opinion but I do know there are many benefits also.

Omega said...

I agree with what you say about such events being learning experiences. I spent a few years trying to develop a small knitwear design business and took part in several different kinds of selling fairs. I learned a great deal - ultimately learning that the whole business: fairs, fashion, knitwear was not for me anyway.

But as you say, BTDT now. I do not visit open studios or fairs any more. I do visit galleries, and hope eventually that my work (which is what I wanted to do all along - but I had this mistaken idea that I should be trying to make money, hence the knitwear!!!) might possibly reach a buying public through a few of them.

About 15 or 20 years ago the Open Studios held in various counties were excellent. Serious and good artists were involved. Nowadays I'm afraid that the standard has widened. Lots of people get a lot of pleasure from it, and some work sells, but it is no longer for me.