Organizers of Three Recent Arts Festivals Pass on Lessons Learned

By Robert Faires


Festivals are the orange plastic cones on Austin's cultural roadway. Once brightly colored novelties scattered lightly across our urban landscape, these attention grabbers have now become ubiquitous; no matter where you go, there one is. If it isn't one of the monster, city-consuming events such as SXSW, it may be one of the smaller but increasingly numerous arts festivals, such as FronteraFest, DANCEfest, MOMFest, Playfest, SculpFest, Texas Young Playwrights Festival, Harvest Festival of New American Plays, Latino Comedy Festival, New Texas Festival, Big Stinkin' International Improv and Sketch Comedy Festival, Chamber Music Festival, Austin Festival of Dance, African-American Festival of Dance, Clarksville Jazz and Arts Festival, AISD Fall String Festival, Fiesta, and isn't that the brand-spanking-new Texas Bach Festival just on the horizon? With so many cultural festivals popping up around town (and bumping up against each other on the calendar), the Chronicle Arts team decided to take a closer look at these events, to learn why so many local artists and companies are channeling their energies into organizing festivals, what challenges they pose for the producers, and what lessons the producers have learned from their festival experiences. For our education, we turned to some folks for whom the memories of running a festival were painfully fresh: All had produced festivals in January and February of this year. They were: Vicky Boone, FronteraFest artistic director; Daniel Johnson, Texas Early Music Project artistic director, and Wendy Brockett, TEMP administrative coordinator; and Chris Valentine, DanceFest artistic director.

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