Ah, it's good to see people in sleepy Salem (Oregon) throw off their lethargy and get fired up over a controversial social issue: whether the Salem Art Association did the right thing in putting up a fence around the 2010 Art Fair and charging a $5 admission fee ($7 for all three days).
Debate over the undeniably ugly chain link fence in public Bush Park, the fee, and a steadily declining percentage of local artists at this increasingly high-quality juried fair has raged in the Salem Statesman Journal, culminating in a front page story today.
Download Salem Art Fair article
My wife and I are pretty much neutral on this subject.
A few weeks ago we spent about $50 on admission and parking at the hugely hippie'ish Oregon Country Fair in Veneta, so $10 is cheap by comparison (except you don't get to see any topless women or smell marijuana at the Salem Art Fair, so that reduces the value considerably).
The newspaper story said that only 13% of Art Fair visitors made a voluntary donation in the past, which seems ridiculously low. So I can understand why the Salem Art Association has gone in the direction it has. You can't expect to get something for nothing, and a major art fair costs a lot to put on, even with much volunteer help.
It seemed to us that the Friday afternoon crowd was considerably sparser than usual, especially given how perfect the weather was. Teenagers were notably fewer in number, probably because of the admission charge. This made the Art Fair appear much more of a middle/old aged affair, and lowered the energy level.
One patron of the arts, Brie Kriebel's wearable variety, was fired up as soon as she reached the booth. Since what Laurel was wearing perfectly matched what she was holding, I had a premonition that a VISA charge was in our future. (I was right.)
I've written before about the unfairly female-centric nature of the Salem Art Fair. Nothing has changed. After spending several hours at the fair and visiting each artist's offerings, I didn't see any male shopping feeding frenzy as was evident at Brie Kriebel's and other women-friendly booths.
The marvelous oaks in Bush Park provide a beautiful setting for the fair. I can't imagine there's a more attractive art fair anywhere in the northwest, and maybe even much farther afield.
Here's one of the advantages of having fewer local artists and more high-quality out-of-staters. The woman "manning" The Laffing Stock Company booth said this was their first year here. She liked the policy of doing away with the 15% commission on sales and going with a flat booth fee, saying that the Salem Art Fair had gotten a bad national reputation among quality artists because of the commission.
Laurel instantly fell in love with this Laffing Stock piece, which features three dogs clinging to the mirror frame and looking at themselves. It adds some welcome whimsical color to our woody extra bedroom.
One reason we don't mind paying an admission fee is the "free" music on the Main Stage. We planned our visit so we'd be done booth-strolling by 6:30, when Vortex Tribe, a fusion/world music group from the Bay Area performed. It was great to lie on a grassy slope on a warm day and enjoy the good vibrations.
Not being at all musical myself, I enjoyed firing up the powerful zoom on my Sony camera and capturing images of the terrific flute player and her band companions.
A little ways below us, a man and his son (I assume) were enjoying a bonding moment, looking at the branches of the towering oak they were lying under. Priceless. Well, $5 for the man, free for children under 12. I'd say they got a good deal.