Thursday, June 5, 2008

U District

I’ve attended many street festivals in my career as a traveling artist. Most offer the benefits of a large crowd of interested people who are willing to be exposed to your art. As the name implies, street festivals are usually held on the main street of the hosting town.

Many of these fairs are set in urban areas and offer both the amenities as well as the drawbacks of large cities. The University District Street Fair in the Seattle is one of these shows. This festival typically is held in the middle of May each year, which brings the possibility of un-settled weather and rain that most Seattleites are accustomed to. This year however, the weather was beautiful, in fact, too beautiful. 94 degree temperatures were the norm for this years fair and most people living in the Pacific Northwest aren’t used to this high a temperature this early in the year. So complaints about the rain were replaced with complaints about how hot it was.

No amount of complaining though cold has put a damper on the festivities. From the great selection of food booths to the eclectic music offerings held on two main stages both days of the show, everyone had something to do to keep themselves smiling.

Now, a bit on the reason why I attend this fair, the art. With over 300 booths containing nearly every conceivable form of art, this show seems to have something for everyone. This was my 6th year doing the show and I’m sad to say that the amount of commercial or “buy/sell” art has appeared to have taken over the show. When I first started doing this street fair, the promoters tried to keep non-artist produced art in the southern most section of University Ave. That way, customers wanting cheap imports knew where to go and those wanting to support the attending artists knew where NOT to go.

The past few years have seen a convergence of both the “buy/sell” vendors and artists that created their own works, which gives the show a bizarre flea market, feel. I’m uncertain whether this has become a financial necessity for the promoters to sell more booths or a oversight but unless this stops, the U District Street Fair will become just another Saturday market and not an art show like it purports itself to be.

I really hope they (the directors) get the message because I for one love the fair, the city of Seattle and the diversity of the crowd and want to continue to support it as an art festival. If it continues on this track though I’ll really have to reconsider it.

All of that aside, I had a great show and made an above average amount of sales and money this year. Which would be hard not to with 50,000 plus people walking by my booth.

The University District Street Fair

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