June 2018

Centennial Park | June 15–17

WORDS Donna Glassford

Many of Nashville’s art hounds, aficionados, and collectors eagerly look forward to craft season: late April through October. The American Artisan Festival, now celebrating its 44th year, is held in Centennial Park and traditionally falls on Father’s Day weekend come rain, shine, and heat. Last year, almost 15,000 people attended the festival to purchase artisans’ wares, hear great music, eat delicious food, walk their dog, and engage in art-making activities. This year’s festival runs June 15, 16 and 17.

Photograph by Jason Lee Denton

Nashville is home to many impressive art collections that feature fine art and craft. A number of collectors joyfully credit their craft addiction to two women: the late Nancy Saturn and Alice Merritt, both best known as the Nashville Godmothers of Craft. These two women championed the unique qualities of hand-made objects and passionately promoted and nurtured craft artists. In 1971, Nancy Saturn produced one of Nashville’s first craft fairs on Bandywood Drive in Green Hills. For 20 years, Alice Merritt was the director of the Tennessee Association of Craft Artists (now Tennessee Craft) and oversaw the TACA craft fairs. Every year these shows happen in Centennial Park, yet each event has its own panache.

Patti and Bob Stern, MA BELL, 2018, 3-D Mixed media, 72” x 24”

Following in her mother’s footsteps, Samantha (“Sam”) Saturn inherited her mother’s fervor for craft and has assumed the mantle of festival director and curator. According to Saturn, the difference between the American Artisan Festival and other regional craft fairs is “mostly in curating the show. Tennessee Craft and other shows do an incredible job highlighting the amazing work of handcraft artists. I think all the shows are strong around here.

“For me, the American Artisan Festival is about the highest quality across all mediums. Having spent my entire life attending American Craft Council shows with my mother as a buyer for her gallery, and then later in my own career working to start businesses like Artspace.com, an online marketplace for middle-market contemporary works, I have spent my career around artists and fine art. I have a keen sense of what is accessible as well as the highest quality art. There are 150 artists coming from a wide range of places, bringing an extensive variety of stories and works with them. But the balance between diversity, quality, and accessibility is what I focus on and what makes this show so special.”

Ceramics, glass, wood, metal, photography, painting, printmaking, sculpture, jewelry, mixed media, furniture . . . all mediums will be represented, with prices ranging from $25 to $2,500. Jewelry is the biggest seller, which drives 40 to 50 percent of all retail sales.

In a new twist to the festival, Saturn has invited a few public artists to create site-specific artworks. Artists are Brett Douglass Hunter, whose installation will feature a family of creatures dotting the entrance, and Beth Reitmeyer’s installation entitled Waves, an interactive large-scale patchwork parachute that looks like a lake.

Kathleen Doyle-Murphy, Lapis Lazuli bracelet

Activities for all ages to enjoy will be live music, tasty food offerings, art-making with the Clay Lady, an up- cycled kids’ art activity led by the Turnip Green team, and a kids’ story hour with Parnassus Books on Saturday and Sunday. Saturn’s daughter Natalie and friends will be hosting a book-making booth where visitors can make prints and create original stories and books. And Jose the Face Painter will be on hand to turn children into artworks themselves!

For more information about the 2018 American Artisan Festival, visit www.americanartisanfestival.com.

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