John F. Schaffner
What was so magical about the weekend of Oct. 17-18 that two major arts festivals had to both be scheduled on the same dates just a few miles apart from each other?
The third weekend in October is the usual date for the Brookhaven Arts Festival—it has been held that weekend every year since its inception six years ago. But the Chastain Park Arts Festival was a first-time event. It could have been held any weekend—maybe the weekend before or the weekend after if it had to be in October.
And, what is so magical about Spring and early Fall? It seems like all the festivals get bunched up in those two periods of the year around metro Atlanta communities. I wouldn’t mind having the opportunity to go to a festival almost any week during the year.
I generally support competition, but I think competition is counterproductive when it comes to two arts festivals held at the same time just a few miles apart.
Randall Fox, co-founder of the Foundation for Public Spaces and executive director or Big Trees Forest in Sandy Springs (a benefactor of the Chastain Park festival), told our reporter he saw the Chastain Festival as being a “complement” to the Brookhaven event.
“We’re not taking away from them,” he said. But, since that event was an inaugural event, how would he know for sure? There is no history on which to make that judgment.
On the other hand, Gretchen Roberts, founder and executive director of the Brookhaven Arts Festival, claimed the Chastain event forced some artists to choose between the two festivals. She said the Chastain event reduced the number of artists at the Brookhaven festival by about 15, from the usual 130, and she felt it also reduced the attendance at her festival compared to previous years.
“We’re too close to each other to be having it on the same weekend,” Roberts told our reporter. “The same people had to choose which event they were going to exhibit at. There are definitely enough weekends for the events not to be on the same weekend.”
However, Patrick Dennis, of the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces, which organized the Chastain event, had another viewpoint: “Atlanta has a lot of artists. There are plenty to go around. And, artists try different festivals to see how their sales go.”
What Dennis says is no doubt true. But festivals on different weekends—rather than conflicting with each other on the same weekend—affords those artists the opportunity for even more choices and an even better evaluation of which festival proves best for their sales.
The other dimension is the art lovers and those who just like going and spending time at a festival—even if they don’t buy anything but a hot dog or funnel cake. I am one of those, although I have been known to purchase art at festivals in the past.
For me—and I think most festival-goers—it is not the same as going to yard sales. The idea is not to see how many you can get to in one or two days. The idea rather is to go and meander—taking time to wander up and down aisles looking at what is being offered and just enjoying a festive day. I could do that maybe every second weekend, or at least once a month all during the year. The weather in Atlanta mostly would allow that.
I hope next year the promoters of the Chastain Park festival will pick a different date than the second weekend in October so that everyone—artists and festival-goers—can enjoy twice the good times. After all, Brookhaven has had dibs on the third weekend in October for its arts festival for six years now. That should be good enough to reserve the date.