By Louis Mayeux

Despite unusually rainy weather at the start, the Brookhaven Arts Festival finished strong Oct. 17-18 for another successful year.

“The weather seriously compromised us Saturday, but Sunday was business as usual because it was much nicer,” said Gretchen Roberts of the Brookhaven Arts Alliance, which sponsors the event. Although Sunday’s weather was cooler than usual, the crowds were strong. “Everybody was ready to get out and enjoy themselves after a crummy Saturday.” She said that the 6-year-old event draws about 1,500 to 2,000 people to the site on Apple Valley Road behind the Brookhaven MARTA station.

The event, held on the third weekend of October since its beginning, also drew competition this year from the first Chastain Park Arts Festival.

“We’re too close to each other to be having it on the same weekend,” Roberts said.. “I wish their’s was on another weekend. 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.” She said the two events forced arts lovers to choose between which to attend.

Organizers of the Chastain Park festival, which benefited the John Ripley Forbes Big Trees Forest Preserve, said they saw their event as a complement to the Brookhaven festival, giving art lovers the opportunity to see more work over one weekend. They also said that they launched the Chastain Park event in response to demand from local artists.

“Atlanta has a lot of artists; there are plenty to go around,” said Patrick Dennis of the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces, which organized the Chastain Park event. “And artists try different festivals to see how their sales go.”

Randall Fox of the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces said the organization said that local artists find it difficult to enter events like the annual Dogwood Festival and. “They wanted a local show they could get into, so we created a show for local artists.” Fox also said e Chastain Park area residents wanted an art show they could attend without having to go to Midtown or Candler Park. “The community wanted it, a local charity was in need, and the artists wanted it.”

Despite the bad weather on Saturday and the closeness of the Chastain Park event, the Brookhaven Festival resulted in strong sales for artists. “There were lots of people still selling,” Roberts said. “People were there who came out on a mission to follow a particular artist they enjoy. People like that are just committed.”

Roberts said that the nonprofit Brookhaven Artist Alliance’s goal is to create a permanent arts center in Brookhaven, including a gallery and performance space. She said the Brookhaven Arts Festival is not a major fund raiser for the alliance, since most of the money raised is used for promotion of the event.

Because of the bad economy, the alliance this year canceled its main fund-raising event, the Taste of Brookhaven, usually held in June. “Our major sponsors are developers, and everybody knows they took a big hit.”

Roberts said she “would prefer to have an investor capital campaign, and increase awareness within the community to raise additional dollars.”

Editor’s note: John Schaffner asks ‘Why have two arts festivals scheduled the same weekend?’ page 10