By Michael Jacobs
Chastain Park will play host to an arts festival this fall created for and by artists while benefiting a forest preserve about 7½ miles away in Sandy Springs.
The first Chastain Park Arts Festival will feature 125 artists arrayed along Chastain Memorial Drive on the northern side of the park Oct. 17 and 18. It’s being organized by the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces, which runs outdoor markets on weekends in Atlantic Station, Decatur and Virginia-Highland.
“We pulled a group of artists together, and we said, ‘OK, what do we need to do to make this show not only successful for you, but one which you’ll be proud of?’ ” said Randall Fox from the Foundation for Public Spaces.
He said Chastain is perfect for an arts festival because of the park’s name recognition, accessibility, space, parking and neighborhood affluence. “We live in Chastain,” Fox said of himself and Foundation for Public Spaces partner Patrick Dennis, “and we had talked to the civic association, we had talked to the arts center, we had talked to the conservancy, and everybody wanted an arts show, but nobody had the resources to do it.”
Fox said local artists pushed him and Dennis to create a Chastain festival for three years. The artists, he said, wanted a showcase that had less competition for sales and a bigger commitment to local artwork than the Atlanta Dogwood Festival in April and the Atlanta Arts Festival in September, each of which brings 300 or so artists to Piedmont Park. Fox said the crowds, the choices, the spectacle and the sheer scale of those shows can be overwhelming.
“Why not scale it back to make it a comfortable show so that [the artists are] making money, the community’s enjoying it, and it’s a learning process?” he said.
More than 90 percent of the artists in the show are from metro Atlanta. A jury of six artists selected the participants from the applicants based on the quality of their art and the professionalism of their booths.
Fox said people who attend the festival will find nothing but fine artists — accomplished painters, potters, sculptors, jewelry makers, woodcrafters and others. The art will be priced from $20 to thousands of dollars.
“We want to make it a notable festival with a notable, recognizable name. But do we want to make it the largest in Fulton County? No,” Fox said.
The low-key approach fits with what the neighborhood wants, he said. He said the community, including the Chastain Park Civic Association and the Chastain Park Conservancy, has embraced the event; he cited neighbors requesting yard signs promoting the festival.
The organizers have turned to two nearby private schools, Galloway and Schenck, for volunteers and are seeking more (e-mail email@example.com or visit www.chastainparkartsfestival.com).
The event will raise money for John Ripley Forbes Big Trees Forest Preserve in Sandy Springs. While Chastain and Big Trees are both public green spaces, a personal connection tied the festival to the preserve: Early this year, Dennis joined Big Trees’ board, and Fox became its unpaid executive director. It will be the first major fundraiser for Big Trees and could provide a major public relations boost.
“This thing’s going to be home run,” said Sam Hale, the president of the Big Trees board. “If it takes off, it will be a springboard to a firm foundation of money.”
Fox is confident the festival will take off and grow in attendance and participation, although he doesn’t expect it ever to have more than 200 artists. “The artists and the community make it successful. If they both embrace it and they both have a good time, you’ve got a good art festival. And then the charity wins because we’re able to raise the money.”