The Beat Goes On at Paseo Arts Fest

-By Colin Newman

This has been a rough week for everyone. Why not go out to the Paseo and decompress? Here is a quick interview with Paseo Artists Association Executive Director Jennifer Barron about the festival.

Q: The Tornado hit just as you guys were making final arrangements for the festival. How did this effect the staging of the event?
A: Immediately on Monday afternoon, I began receiving worried calls from artists and food vendors from around the country, wondering if the event would be cancelled. I talked with board members about it, and in the end we decided that a) a positive celebratory event could be really good for the city and b) we could respond to the event by holding a food drive. I hope that it gives people a way to connect and contribute.

Q: I know you will be collecting supplies for the Regional Food Bank at the event. What should people bring? What other fundraising and charitable activities are planned?

A: I contacted the Regional Food Bank and asked them what their needs were, and they told me: non-perishable food, water, protein bars, etc. They specifically mentioned pop-tarts as a ready-to-eat food that doesn┬╣t need any cooking. I hope that we get a good response. Our music chair, Amy Young, was contacted by a few bands who are planning to donate their tips (the only compensation they get for performing) to the Red Cross. Also, an artist named Charis Casey reached out to me with an idea of setting up an interactive art project for visitors. She’ll create a board with the words “The most important thing in life is___” and people can fill it in however they choose.

Q: What else has changed at the festival because of the events of this last week?

A: In smaller ways, it’s affected logistics. Some volunteers who had signed up to the Festival have decided to give their time to the disaster recovery efforts, which is, of course, absolutely wonderful and I know they are desperately needed. Several of our vendors (soft drinks, ice, trash crew) have been working with the relief/recovery as well, and so our set-up schedule has been adjusted, but everyone is wonderfully flexible and understanding, and I think that comes out of the same community spirit that our awesome city is becoming famous for. It’s affected the way I’ve promoted this event this week. I planned to send a few more press releases and do more social media promotion, but the timing felt inappropriate for some of that. It’s on everyone’s minds. Visiting artists have been asking me about it all day, and many of them are planning to contribute to the food drive… Artists usually pack their trailers with Tetris-like precision, so it’s pretty remarkable that many of them went out of their way to bring food donations. All in all, I really hope that the event is positive for our community.

Q: What’s new at the festival this year that we haven’t seen in past years?

A: There are 12 artists who will be showing with us for the first time. Our poster art- designed by artist Gayle Curry- is really fun and graphic and whimsical, and I think it captures the spirit of the district. I really love the design! It has inspired a coloring contest, which is also new! Kids can color in black-and-white versions of the poster and enter them. Winners in three different age groups will be selected and displayed during June’s first Friday Gallery Walk. I’m also VERY excited about our music line-up, which shows some of the best of our local music community.

Q: One of the main reasons The Paseo has stayed an artist’s colony over the last 30 years is because of John Belt, who just passed away. What impact did that have on the festival preparations?

A:When the poster art was chosen, John Belt had just passed away. We added the tagline “in memory of John L Belt” to the posters and shirts, and I think it sort of stayed in all of our minds (the Festival committee/volunteers) that this year’s event is in some ways a tribute to what he built. This is our 37th year, and he helped start the first one, and rebrand the whole area as an arts district. This is one incredible legacy!

Q: This festival keeps growing. Will it eventually reach the point where the neighborhood can’t sustain it?

A: We have natural borders in the district that make growing the event a little tricky. I hope it does continue to grow, and I hope that expansion is a challenge we will have to think about! I think as the event draws more attention, we’ll become an even more competitive festival for artists to participate in, which is another way that it can evolve over time. I hope that crowds who come down also visit the galleries and businesses who keep this place artsy all year round.

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