Thursday, April 25, 2013

Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival 2013

This past weekend my dad and I visited the Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival, a four day event that spanned the greater portion of Downtown Fort Worth. Underneath the long stretches of white tents, the eclectic caravan of artisans displayed their work ranging from traditional oil paintings to overwhelming metalwork and sculptures. And even though the booths and artists vary each year, the annual tradition feels so familiar and nostalgic that it resembles Holden Caulfield’s glorified Museum of Natural History where ‘everything always stayed right where it was.’ With downtown’s traditional bricked walkways, tall buildings, and small garden like shrubberies, the rows of varied artwork and amassed clutter of spectators have become synonymous with my childhood and how I view this fair city’s interest and enthusiasm of art and culture.


And in a lot of ways, it’s changing. For the past few months, Downtown Fort Worth has become seized with construction. Roads have been stripped to accommodate new pipes and lanes, and metal gates have sectioned off large skeletal buildings filled with diligent construction workers. A few weeks ago, we visited downtown to see its progress, and we were fairly concerned. Lots once reserved for display booths and performance stages were gone; they were replaced with prospective parking garages and shopping strips. Along the metal construction gates, there were short comic panels of a man from the 1900’s who was lost in the modern world. Everywhere he turned, he was stupefied by ATM’s, automobiles, and cops riding segways (and in two more years, no one will know what’s a segway). But it’s progress, and it’s needed for our downtown to thrive.

Wait until he discovers indoor plumbing.

Despite the changes, the festival was still the same. There was less space for the large colorful sculptures and one of the performances stages moved across the street to accommodate its surrounding food booths, but overall, the bulk of the event stayed on Main Street with its red brick walkways and small but organized shrubberies.

In a sea of white tents, you could see speckles of small people.

Like most of its visitors, we usually trudged through the art festival on Saturday, but my dad requested a day off ahead of time, and we found ourselves strolling through the booths on Friday with a lighter, ibid significantly older, crowd. Seriously, if the senior citizens came a day later, they would all be lost and pushed aside. To be honest with you, it was a completely different experience. We leisurely walked around at our own pace; occasionally we stopped to see certain pictures or walked through an artists’ booth without boxed-in or pushed around. And as much as I like feeling part of an anonymous collective in a crowd or traffic jammed walkway were we collectively inch forward every other minute, it’s nice to attend an art festival where you can enjoy the art without worrying whether you might step on someone’s flip-flop or trample over a small but very oblivious child.

Later in the afternoon, we popped our heads inside the golden bordered glass doors of the Bass Performance Hall. Throughout the art festival’s weekend, the Bass Hall provided a short sampler of their eclectic performances. On Friday, they provided a condensed tour of the performance hall highlighting the hall’s intricate details from local flora and song birds painted on the wing’s ceilings to the theater’s discrete ventilation panels beneath each of its two thousand seats. Our passionate full-time volunteer tour guide ushered us through the theater, the second floor, and the exterior balcony where we could almost touch the twin fifteen meter tall angels, which were meticulously sculpted from limestone. On Saturday we were fortunate enough to attend one of the hall’s free short performances. It started with the soulful brass section of the Fort Worth symphony orchestra followed by a fervent yet whimsical ballet, and it ended with the frantic, power-laden wisps of four pianists playing on two grand pianos.

It was very impressive.

 The one of the angel statues ...and one of the other
visitors on the tour guide. 

Afterwards, we watched a movie, and by the time it ended, Richard Elliot, a renowned smooth jazz musician, played on the main stage. And unlike most live music, I think it’s nearly impossible to perform jazz without a heightened level of passion that reverberates from the crowd. Without flare and showmanship, it’s just a guy onstage with a saxophone, but through his expressive movements and zeal, he’s able to titillate the crowd and transcend his music past a cover of his recorded albums and allow his audience to be part of the experience.

Admittedly a terrible snapshot until you realize that I took it
with one hand while holding a turkey leg.

In a way, it reshaped my views on artists and performers. Like many of the art festival’s attendees, my dad and I marveled at brightly colored the landscapes and collages, skimmed across the abstract and minimalists, and gawked at all of their price tags. To some extent, we just assume that we don’t get it; we lack formal education and expertise to fully appreciate the artwork. In some regards, we perceive art to be a pastime for the highbrow intellectuals, and with every other booth, one of us would say, ‘That’s very pretty, but what would you do with it.’ And at the same time, each booth displayed the artist’s lifelong work and the livelihood of their survival. Each picture provided their perception of the world that we live in and embodied the topics and themes that they valued and stand behind as their life’s mission to express and share with the world. In that small 10x10 foot booth, their life was on display. And that’s hard to put a price tag on.


On the next day, we meandered through the amassed crowds of people until we eventually sat on the green, placid lawn while a cover band played George Harrison’s ‘Here Come the Sun’ under the deep blue sky and the thinnest sliver of puffy white clouds. And along the sun drenched field and playful breeze, some took pictures while others walked hand in hand with their loved ones, and we all hoped to savor memories like this.