A couple of days ago, when I discovered I'd be in Atlanta this summer in time to catch the Atlanta Black Arts Festival, I all but jumped out of my seat and cheered. Not only do I LOVE art festivals, I've been wanting to attend the Atlanta Black Arts Fest for years now . . really, ever since I learned of its existence.
Yes, I have an arts festival JONES that won't quit. My house is full things (prints, jewelry, mirrors, purses, african drums and other such hand carved items) I've purchased at various festivals from around the country. But the truth is, I attend them even when I'm broke and have absolutely no plans of buying anything. My guess is the creatively rich environment that makes up an art festivals helps feed the ravenous cravings of my own muse.
A combination of things go into the making of a good arts festival, I think. Location and parking are two inter-related items that place pretty high on my list. While a center-city or downtown locale always adds a bit of flavor to the event, parking that is free (or relatively inexpensive), nearby and plentiful makes attendance all the more inviting.
Being a fan of fresh air and sunshine, I prefer an outdoor festival. But an in-door event can have its merits. One of the highlights (and believe me, there weren't many) of the four long years I spent in the Cleveland area was an indoor festival called Sankofa / Cleveland Fine Art Expo which was typically held at Tri-C's (Cuyahoga Community College) eastern campus.
I always wondered why the event organizers never used the suburban campus' nicely manicured and enormous grounds for the festival. But in Cleveland, its always about the weather . . . rain, wind or snow is typically always lurking somewhere in the forecast. So, if not precipitation, mud may have been an issue. What I enjoyed must about Sankofa was the mix of arts--fine, folk, film literary, etc. There was a bit of something to whet every artistic appetite.
The presence of food, the kind you eat, also helps make a festival fun. At the most recent fest (The Art and Soul of The South End) I attended here in Charlotte, I actually managed to limit myself to a single bratwrust and a cherry-flavored Italian ice.
But what truly endears a festival to me are the people. When I lived in Memphis, one of the great joys of attending the yearly Africa in April celebration was running into people I'd lost touch with or no longer saw on a regular basis. It was always a fun surprise to bump into friends, relatives and/or see co-workers who I'd least expect to see at a crowded, downtown "artsy event."
Equally enjoyable is the opportunity to meet and greet some of the artists and vendors. Again, whenever I hung-out in Africa in April's "market place" I'd always look for my friend and fellow writer, A.J., who hawked goods on behalf of the business she and her hubby owned. While living in Cleveland, I generally looked for an artist by the name of Shedrick, whose thin, long-legged characters I've come to love. On two different occasions, I purchased some of her work at a Cleveland area art festival called Art In the Village.
I'm already looking forward to September when one of the artist I met at Charlotte's Art and Soul of South End will return with her eye-catching array of shadow boxes, mirrors and clocks (Jordan's Treasures). Yup, I plan on adding more of her work to my collection too (smile).
Obviously, I was meant to live in Charlotte, if only because the nice weather makes it ideal for out-door activities year round. Festival junkie that I am, last year I celebrated my first full week here by going out to an area of Charlotte known as NoDA (North Davidson) and attending what was billed as Charlotte's First Literary Festival. Not only am I looking forward to trekking out to the Charlotte Literary Festival again this August, but I already have my sights set on next year's event when, if all goes well and the creek don't rise, I'll be one of the many author participants. Say a prayer and keep your fingers crossed. I'll keep you posted.
If you have a favorite festival or you know one that just might tickle my fancy, give me the scoop. I'm always on the look-out for new ones to try.