Cherry Creek Art Festival

by Lisa Call on July 7, 2006

in The Art World

Last weekend was the much anticipated Denver cultural event, the Cherry Creek Arts Festival. According to their website it is “one of the nation’s most competitive outdoor juried arts festivals.” Well I have to admit until this year I never bothered to go.

I didn’t get a chance to see the entire show because a rather nasty thunderstorm shut things down an hour after my arrival but I saw enough to convince me I probably won’t be coming back. As Alyson mentioned on her blog, the booths weren’t in the greatest shape – in fact I thought they looked pretty ratty as a group. It just felt like a suboptimal environment for viewing quality art.

I had checked out many of the artists websites prior to attending and went specifically looking for Todd Van Duren as I found the work on his website appealing. I did enjoy his work and bought a small wind blown house to live amongst a pile of rocks from the Oregon coast on a table in my bedroom.

I also enjoyed some of the work by Nanci Erskine and was pleased to see a Colorado artist exhibiting at the festival.

Cherry Creek is one of the trendy expensive areas in Denver, and my son said seeing the woman in Ugg Boots on a Segway looking at jewelry in one of the booths pretty much summed up for him what the event was about. Let’s just say I didn’t see very many folks buying art although the falafals were tasty.

I guess when the slogan of the festival is “Art! That’s The Point” it makes you wonder if maybe the art isn’t the point but they’d sure like it to be. What exactly is that supposed to mean?

There is a very interesting comment on Alyson’s blog with a link to this article about why folks attend art festivals and other cultural events. The article is titled The Diversity of Cultural Participation: Findings from a National Survey and is definitely food for thought

The experience confirmed I will never be a festival artist. I just don’t make work at price points that can compete with a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream bar. Nor would I want someone viewing my work with one in their hand. Well except me, in the comfort of my own studio.

Cherry’s Garcia anyone?


Deborah July 7, 2006 at 8:15 pm

New York Super Fudge Chunk for me, please. What interesting thoughts! It is very important for artists to consider exactly how they will make income. Clearly, attending events like this can help you define your own choices. And thanks for the link to Todd Van Duren! Wow.

Nanci Erskine July 9, 2006 at 3:58 pm

Hi Lisa-
Coinkydink- I also subscribe to Alyson’s web newsletter.
Glad you liked my work at the CCAF. It was my first ever outdoor deal, and I’m not sure I would want to do it again. Perhaps it felt a bit more exhausting since I was entering into the unknown and had to get up to speed with all supplies etc. in about 3 months. There were some very knowledgeable, sensitive folks who came and spoke with me, and I made enough to cover all expenses and a bit more.
But mucho exhausting. I will be curious to see what the festival claims is the gross sales brought in, because I didn’t witness too much of it going on, unless you had items for under $100 perhaps. Just thought I’d try it to see if the do-it-yourself route might be feasible. Gallery activity has been almost nonexistent for a couple years for me, but I’m also in midst of getting into newer subject matter that might be more appealing in a commercial sense, so ….? I might try it again next year, smarter, fully equipped, and traveling lighter. And with an awning! it was freaking hot :-)

Lisa Call July 9, 2006 at 8:23 pm

Nanci – thanks much for the personal insight as a first time festival exhibitor. Wow – pulling that together in 3 months sounds like a lot of work. Your booth looked nice. I didn’t stop to chat because I had my 13 year old entertaining me with a running commentary the whole time.

If you want to experience an art event from a completely different view point take a teenage boy. In the hour we were there he consumed a huge quantity of food and had a sarcastic comment about everything. It was actually pretty fun – until he started whining about wanting to go home.

Charles Pinckney October 8, 2006 at 8:16 pm

Lisa, thanks for the insight your comment from Nanci gave me. I am a Sougheastern artist that has been thinking of doing some shows in the West. I had heard of CCAF but never had comments on the show. It surprised me to hear the ,”under $100.”, comment. Maybe just the ,”grass is greener”, syndrone perhaps. About the teen thing. I have a teenager and you are sooooooo right. Charles Pinckney,

Cynthia October 9, 2006 at 7:36 am

I wouldn’t have noticed this post, except I happened to glance at the recent comments section on your blog.

I sometimes attend the CCAF, but more often than not, I skip it. It’s crowded, hot and to be honest, I can’t afford much of the art there. Though, I do like to look at other artist’s work.

I have participated in the Art Student League’s Summer Art Market for 2 years in a row, selling functional ceramic work and I’ve done okay. I’ve shared a booth to help defray the costs, it is exhausting and hot too. But, I’ve met a lot of really interesting people including other artists…some of whom are festival experts and offer a lot of good advice. For face time and networking I think it has been a good experience too. I had some repeat customers this year that came looking for our booth again after having seen us there the first year.

But, that being said, I’m not sure I would be cut out for the festival circuit.

Lisa Call October 12, 2006 at 5:33 pm

Thanks for the comment Charles – I do sometimes wonder how much regional differences there are in the art market.

Cynthia, I’ve heard good things about the Art Student League Summer Art Market. I definitely need to put it on my calendar and attend next year.

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