The Tempe Festival of the Arts is about community, and it's about community on two scales. First, there is the local community that is gathering to participate in a 50+ year old event. Musicians are local, food vendors are local, many of the artists (about 1/3) are Arizona based. There is so much personal satisfaction in knowing that you are putting money directly into the hands of your neighbors. On a larger scale, there is the broader community of working artists who make a living by creating work and selling it directly to people at fairs. Artisans making goods and selling them at a public market is one of the oldest forms of commerce that still exists today. It is such a gift to be able to talk to an artist directly about their passions, their process, their history, their growth, and their goals. Where else can you do this? You can't go to a mall and find anyone who played a role in the making of a garment or a product. You certainly don't get any insight into a product's maker when you purchase online. When I take a moment to dig into the luxury of this opportunity, it gets my gratitude energy fired up!
I have been working directly with the artists for about six years now. Within our organization, we divide and conquer and my job is to coordinate the jury process, handle all the artist placement, manage the communications with artists, ensure that they have what they need during the event, and with that I get the privilege of getting to know them. There are other team members who are doing the work of coordinating all the logistics - road closures, restrooms, security, food vendors, programming, wine tastings, marketing, signage, etc. The event is large scale and takes hundreds of people, both volunteers and staff, to get it up and running.
But I want to share with you what makes this event so special, and from my perspective it is the connection to humans that are bringing us their hearts (sometimes literally) and opening themselves up to our critique. We have the opportunity to vote with our wallets and cut out all "middle men" by purchasing directly from a maker. And the conversations that we get to have with these people are such a treat!
A basket weaver can share how she learned her trade as a native from West Africa and continues to honor those traditions today. What a gift to have the opportunity to see, touch and purchase a piece of her work, with unrivaled detail and craftsmanship.
A wood carver will talk through how his process of carving boxes has transitioned over years to finally arrive where he is today. How wonderful to be able to hear his development and hold the results in your hands.
A jeweler can tell you the process of wax casting her works using the skeleton of a cactus. How memorable to look down at your finger a month from now and see a ring that brings her story back to you.
A soap maker can tell you how her own challenges finding a product that worked with her skin led to years of recipes, trials, tests, and finally resulted in a soap that she now offers to you. Tired of all the unwanted chemicals in the store products, here's your opportunity to ask about every ingredient and know exactly what going on your body.
I encourage you to join us at the Tempe Festival of the Arts and meet makers, artisans, people with a passion for their work. Hear their stories, glean some insight into the very tedious and back-breaking processes that they have honed. Take home treasures that will forever remind you of that person and the connection you had with them. And then come back and say hello to them at a future event. I would also argue that there is no better way to spark your own creativity than to see what burns in another.
This is community at every level, and it feeds our souls.