RiverArtsFest, Friday-Sunday

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In its sixth year, the RiverArtsFest returns to the South Main Historic Arts District, October 26th-28th. There is a $5 admission to enter this year’s festival all day Saturday and Sunday. However, admission is free Friday night during the Trolley Tour and Sunday before noon.

Over 170 artists from around the country will have works in booths lining South Main. There will be a little something for everyone just in time for the holidays: jewelry, watercolors, ceramics, glass, fiber, and leather will be available for purchase directly from the artists.

These types of art festivals have always been a little weird for me. Sure, the patrons get to interact with the artists that they are interested in knowing more about. Sure, the artists do not have to give a commission to an art dealer in a gallery so the artists are able to charge lower prices for their work and hopefully be able to sale more of it.

But the problem is that there is so much of it.

The artists have to have large inventories available in the small spaces of their individual booths in an attempt to come out ahead financially. It is difficult to imagine the costs the artists accrued just in art materials, paint, canvas, paper, cameras, glass, clay, wood, etc., before ever leaving their studios. Then there is the time and commitment that it takes to actually make the work. For those who remember, there is the time and money spent on marketing materials, business cards, brochures, etc., (you have to pay someone to design these things for you) to pass out to potential customers in hope of future sales.

As this festival is growing every year, the number of states the artists are from grows as well. We all know and feel the burden at the gas pump and unfortunately, most of these artists are unable to haul all their work back and forth in little bitty hybrid cars. Then there is three days of hotels and food while here in Memphis. It is overwhelming just to think about it.



Last year, over 85,000 people were estimated to have attended the festival with this number expected to grow. If just 15% of the visitors buy something this year, then there may be a little hope for the artists. So, go buy something. Even if you do not like it. Besides, the musical line-up alone, The Memphis Dawls, Robert Belfour, Jack Oblivion, and the Wuvbirds just to name a few, is worth the price of admission. (I wonder how much they are getting paid to play this festival?) Then there are the corndogs and beer. Maybe some entrepreneurial gifted artist will be selling arty corndogs in their booths. They would make a killing.

Poster designed by Jeni Stallings. Image courtesy of RiverArtsFest.

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