With festive anticipation mounting, crowds of people swarmed the Triad Center area Wednesday, shopping, eating and enjoying the sunshine, as the 14th annual Utah Arts Festival opened with its usual array of arts and activities.
For the festival audience, the opening day meant the opportunity to experience a diversity of arts and crafts. But for the more than 80 artists, many who came from out of state, the five-day festival means artistic camaraderie a way to expose their work to the public eye and a sometimes lucrative living. For these artists, the Utah Arts Festival is one of several stops in the United States where original and creative work can be sold.On the busy festival grounds, Carol Herschleb, a 44-year-old artist from Point Reyes, Calif., sat outside her booth exhibiting original ceramic work. She talked about her life as an artist.
"I'm independent, single and not tied down," she said. "That makes it so I can pick up and go. The farthest I go for an arts festival is Coconut Grove, Fla., and to do that I have to drive six days each way."
Herschleb said her booth is costing her $300 for the duration of the festival, a sum she finds expensive."For that price every artist here expects a lot of publicity," she said."This festival has been publicized nicely, but you still pay your money and take your risks."
As Herschleb talked, the nearby sounds of Powder Ridge, a blue grass quintet punctuated the air as the group performed on the Park Stage."This festival is not just a place for people to sell things," she added. "This is not a flea-market crowd. There is a cultural exchange that goes on. There's a lot of music, dance, theater and other performing artists. There's something here for everyone."
From the look of the festival grounds, Herschleb was right. Sitting amid the audience watching Powder Ridge, a middle-aged man in a three-piece suit beat his feet in time with the fast-picking music, occasionally singing a line. And across from the environmental art display, which comprised three 20-foot, multicolored totem poles, a child with an ice cream cone licked contentedly, paying little or no attention to arts or crafts.
Observing a booth selling leather purses, festivalgoer Louise Hull sipped at her soft drink and explained why she attends the annual event, discussing changes she's observed in the festival throughout the years.
"I usually come up every year, and I'm having a great time," Hull said. "But things seem a little overpriced to me. In prior years I've purchased more, but the prices have really gone up."
The prices of the wares were a significant concern for other Utahns attending the festival."Nice stuff, but who has the money," an elderly woman commented casually to her husband.
But some artists don't expect their expensive merchandise to be sold _ they just like to show it off. Expensive art is a trademark for James Marc, a 41-year old California artist. Marc said he put up his most expensive painting to attract passers-by. "I want people to see the work I'm capable of doing," he said.
Besides attending the Utah festival every year, Marc exhibits his original paintings in New York and Southern and Northern California. Still, Marc doesn't consider himself a "touring artist."
"There are festival artists who make a living attending 20 to 30 festivals a year, but I'm not really like that," Marc said as he sat in the shade by his booth. "I do about five. For me this event is a cultural thing. Festivals help me relate to people. But other artists are monetarily dependent on festivals to make a living."
Explaining that productive artists can't store their work in their apartments for long, Marc said that artists need the opportunity to get their work out in the public eye. He said festivals play an essential role in artistic exposure.
"Art festivals are funny. A lot of artists don't do them because they don't like to interrelate with large groups of people. But in Salt Lake City there seem to be people who really want to experience new things _ festivals are a way of getting stuff out where people see it."
Costing as much as $5,000 each, Marc's works consist of surrealistic scenes of color and fantasy, delivered with smooth strokes of oil. "The average Joe might not be able to afford the type of work I do," Marc said. "I'm trying to tone down the price. But if I have a decent show here _ if I can sell three or four pieces _ maybe I'll go up to the Green River and fish for a week."
But until then, some 80 artists are going to be sitting in exhibiting booths for the next five days, waiting for that next interested customer _ a person with an eye for art and a willingness to buy.