Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Opening Doors For Outdoor Artists

One venue that artists have traditionally used to sell their work is the outdoor show. No other showcase offers the number of art viewers who are able to buy directly from the artist. A prolific hard working artist could conceivably do a dozen shows a year and earn a decent living.

Over the years, show organizers, realizing they had somewhat of a captive audience, began offering more – food, alcohol, music, raffles, children’s activities, and art demonstrations. Many shows became expanded festivals and some took on the look of county fairs. Mom, dad and the kids could be entertained by art while chomping chili dogs and kettle korn.

Because of this, sidewalk shows are often criticized for having a “something for everyone” mentality. Art museums and galleries especially take a dim view of art fairs. Artists who list outdoor shows on their resumes run the risk of being considered not museum worthy.

There is, however, an exhibition at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art that signals a change in attitude. Rocky and Friends is a tribute to the 35th anniversary of the Palm Harbor Fine Arts and Crafts Festival and some of the artists who have shown their work there. This excellent show was organized by the Museum and artist Rocky Bridges, a long time exhibitor and favorite son, born and raised in Tarpon Springs.

Yesterday a friend and I took a walkthrough which slowed to a crawl as we took in a gallery full of magnificent and mysterious awe inspiring art. Afterward, we concluded that every piece of art hanging there was museum worthy.

Outdoor art shows offer the best of two worlds – entertainment and fine art – and the hope is that exhibitions like this will help people distinguish between the two.

Rocky and Friends runs through January 10 at Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, 600 Klosterman Road, Tarpon Springs. (Photograph: Tribute, assemblage, 2009, Rocky Bridges, courtesy of Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art)

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