Art fes­ti­val con­tin­ues to blos­som

> Down­town event draws artists from 29 states

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Stage - By Fredric Koep­pel

Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

If there are three words that will draw lo­cal fun-lovers and cul­ture-seek­ers, they are “river” and “arts” and “fes­ti­val”: Voila, the free — as in no ad­mis­sion charge — RiverArt­sFest, which runs Satur­day, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sun­day, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., on South Main Street.

A com­bi­na­tion of two old events, Arts in the Park and the South Main Arts Fes­ti­val, RiverArt­sFest at­tracted about 40,000 peo­ple in 2007, its first year, and more than 70,000 peo­ple last year.

“We’re thrilled to present a big­ger and bet­ter RiverArt­sFest in its third year,” said the fes­ti­val’s co-di­rec­tor Lee Askew. “With the tremendous re­sponse the fes­ti­val has got­ten, we look for­ward to it grow­ing ev­ery year.”

An­other mea­sure of the fes­ti­val’s growth and of how im­por­tant it is con­sid­ered in artis­tic terms lies in that fact that the num­ber of par­tic­i­pants in the juried Artist Mar­ket has bur­geoned from 140 in 2007 to 178 in 2008 to 190 this year. Applications were re­ceived from artists in 29 states.

A Preview Party tonight from 6 to 9 at Cen­tral Sta­tion, 545 S. Main, fea­tures food from Down­town restau­rants , live mu­sic and a si­lent auc­tion of works by Artist Mar­ket par­tic­i­pants. Tick­ets are $25.

In ad­di­tion to the Artist Mar­ket, this year the event of­fers four mu­sic stages fea­tur­ing 50 well-known re­gional acts per­form­ing in the gen­res of rock, jazz, blues, dance, rhythm and blues, jug band, Latin, soul, coun­try, folk and clas­si­cal, as well as dozens of strolling mu­si­cians; demon­stra­tions of glass-fus­ing, pa­per mak­ing, wa­ter­color paint­ing, metal sculp­ture and more arts and crafts; food and bev­er­ages from 10 lo­cal ven­dors; a hands-on art sta­tion for all ages; an ex­panded venue that runs on South Main from Hul­ing on the north to East Ge­or­gia on the south. Many gal­leries and shops in the area will hold spe­cial ex­hi­bi­tions.

South Main will be closed to traf­fic in the fes­ti­val area, but the trol­ley will con­tinue to op­er­ate.

“The big­gest change this year,” said Carol Watkins, an­other fes­ti­val co-di­rec­tor, “is that we have ex­panded the ex­tent of the Artist Mar­ket. Pre­vi­ously, it was con­cen­trated in the area be­tween Web­ster and G.E. Pat­ter­son” — in front of Cen­tral Sta­tion — “but now it will run from Hul­ing to Web­ster, mostly on one side of the street be­cause of the trol­ley. You know that the main mu­sic stage is in the Civil Rights Plaza, and we wanted to bring the Artist Mar­ket and the big­gest mu­sic venue to­gether. That’s a huge change for us. It makes the fes­ti­val feel and look much more open.”

An­other change, said Watkins, is that demon­strat­ing artists will be con­cen­trated in the open lot next to Earnes­tine & Hazel’s. “We’ll have five artists there in a sort of hub. That should bring more im­pact for the demon­stra­tions.”

The weather is al­ways a con­cern for an out­door event; ear­lier this month, a rainy Sun­day put a dam­per on the last day of the Pink Palace Crafts Fair. Though this Oc­to­ber has been rainier than usual, the fore­cast for this week­end doesn’t in­clude rain.

“The weather should be great,” said Watkins. “We’re very ex­cited.”

This year’s RiverArt­sFest has drawn the at­ten­tion of artists from 29 states, and the juried Artist Mar­ket has grown to 190 par­tic­i­pants. Pic­tured: Laura Nu­gent ‘s paint­ing, “Some of the Things I Have Not Told You. ”

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