The First Annual Salida Arts Festival was a mild disappointment to us, and probably more so to its better artists. It was fairly well attended but I saw no one carrying purchases, and saw just one object sell, at a steep discount at that. When artists are willing to haggle after the show’s been open just two hours, they ain’t seeing a lot of business.
We had read all about it and knew the Fest was to be a pure art show, an event for working artists to vend their wares. There would be no jugglers, mimes, music, food, wine or beer. We had not realized how much those things add to the art fair experience. Without food and music there’s nothing to do between stops to view art or talk to the creative talent. Without beer or wine there’s nothing to soften customer resistance to spending sofa money on a 12” by 16” painting. It’s exactly what they taught us in Marketing 101: it doesn’t matter what a business wants or needs – what is important is what the customer wants. These customers wanted more than pictures, rock furniture, jewelry, and drums. Maybe they didn’t want those things at all.
My choice for best of show was from the genre of – to my astonishment – photo realism. Typically those skilled at making paint on canvas resemble a good photo lack creativity, and if all you can do is paint something that looks like a huge digital photograph, yo, twig to this, brother: the world already has cameras. But this fellow was clever and inventive in his choice of subjects and in his execution of them. I wanted to tell him that he was Best of the Show, hands down, but he spent the half hour we were there striding around in his kilt, talking on a cell phone. His name is Roderick E. Stevens II, and after extensive internet research, I realized that he does a lot of shows in bigger markets – Santa Fe, Houston, and Beverly Hills. He sensed there would be no sales here, and I suspect he and several others won’t be back, if there is a Second Annual Salida Art Fest.
On the way out we witnessed a pop culture phenomenon known as pickle ball. Pickle ball is played with wooden paddles, a plastic ball, and a net, in some semblance of tennis using badminton strokes (every shot has to be hit at waist level or below, and volleying is allowed only from seven or more feet away from the net.) It made me really miss tennis, even though those days are gone for good. For a few moments there I could recall the feel of striking a perfect backhand, hard up the line and just past the net man.
Tennessee Williams got it right: “Of all mankind’s gifts, youth is the most incontinently spent.”