After a Covid-caused hiatus, the Salem Art Fair is back in Bush Park this weekend.
But not in its usual location under trees, because that was causing damage to the white oaks from soil compaction. So it moved to the large open grassy area adjacent to High Street.
Laurel and I went to the fair this afternoon for our usual Friday visit. It was enjoyable. However, not nearly as enjoyable as in the previous location.
Paying for admission was the first shock. Recalling that the previous entrance fee was $5, I handed over a $20 bill for the two of us and waited to get my change. Which didn't happen, since the new entrance fee is $10 per adult.
OK, no big deal. As soon as we started looking at the booths, though, I realized that Art Fair 2.0 has lost much of what made Art Fair 1.0 so appealing.
Before, the artist booths were laid out on each side of a central paved path that served as a connecting link between the food/entertainment area at the north end, and another food/entertainment area at the south end.
Now there's just a big grassy field with booths arranged in a rather confusing fashion. It used to be easy to tell if you'd seen all the artists. We'd start at one end, look at each of the booths in each of the rows on one side of the central paved path, then head back the other way, looking at each of the booths on the other side of the path.
This year, we kept wondering if we'd already seen a half-circle of booths, or if we'd missed one, because the layout isn't nearly as clear.
UPDATE: After some further reflection, it dawned on me that what the new location of the Art Fair lacks is the energy of the old location. Before, there was the sense of being part of an artistic celebration with other people. There wasn't nearly as much open space, so you felt a connection with your fellow fairgoers as people walked along fairly close together, browsing the art. Now, after paying for admission you're set loose in a big field with tents that doesn't have anywhere near the same sense of energetic intimacy. Hopefully this will be fixed next year. A more linear layout with some curves in it would help a lot, as this would foster designated paths for viewing different parts of the Art Fair. Put simply, the old Art Fair layout had "soul." This layout felt sterile and detached.
Again, I get why the location had to be changed. These oaks are right next to the new location. They're protected from root damage now. But fairgoers and artists aren't protected from the sun. And the oaks provided a sheltering natural atmosphere that added a lot to the ambience of the Art Fair, which now is lacking.
Currently there's artist booths scattered around a big flat grassy field. Better than scattered around a big flat asphalt parking lot, for sure. But worse than being under the shady limbs of large white oaks. I suppose that if someone had never been to the Art Fair at the old location, they'd think this one was just fine. However, I was unable to stop comparing old and new.
At least the temporary fence around the Art Fair has gotten shorter and more attractive. It was kind of jarring to have some of the booths right next to a sidewalk and city street. Again, my memory of previous Art Fairs forces me to look upon the 2022 version through the eyes of all the Art Fairs I've been to since moving to Salem in 1977.
Laurel and I found ourselves moving through the artist booths more rapidly than usual, given the lack of shade when not actually inside a booth and the warm weather today. I did pause to admire the colorful shoes on display in this booth.
Not to belabor this point -- though admittedly I am -- but after we reached the northern end of the booths and turned around to walk the other way, it was kind of difficult to tell which artists we had already seen, and which artists we hadn't.
At the old Art Fair sometimes Laurel and I would split up and agree to meet at a certain time at row 11, or whatever. At the new Art Fair, the numbering scheme wasn't readily apparent. If someone is attracted to a piece of art, yet isn't quite ready to buy it, this makes finding the artist's booth again more difficult than it should be.
Part of the fun of being unartistic, which I certainly am, is looking at a piece of art and thinking, "Hey, I could make that!" Of course, I really couldn't, since undoubtedly quite a bit of skill goes into painting a canvas blue. But the thought was still in my head.
The Art Fair features art with a wide range of prices for every budget. Two of these sculptures had tags saying $16K and $20K. "K" stands for thousand, or I would have pulled out a twenty dollar bill and taken one of the pieces home.