By Hollie Deese
Photo by Theodore Lillie
This Father’s Day weekend, June 14-16, more than 100 handmade art vendors, local food and drink trucks will be present at Centennial Park for the 45th Annual American Artisan Festival. Festival director and Nashville-native, Samantha Saturn moved back to Music City from NYC after 20 years to revive the festival as a way to honor her parent’s legacy who started the festival in 1974. With the influx of newness and excitement surrounding Nashville, she says this festival is a way to reconnect the roots and traditions that are so deeply embedded in this city.
Saturn took the time to answer a few questions for Nashville Interiors about what to expect, how art plays a part and what are some must-stop booths while out at the fest.
What can people expect that is new this year?
The art is always centerstage for us and this year is no exception with more than 130 artists across fifteen mediums there is truly something for everyone – but in addition – this year we’ve partnered with Musicians Corner to bring their quality free music program to our event. Together we’re also supported by SESAC who is bringing a host of their incredible writer performers to the stage this year as well. We have also stepped up our game on our food and spirits making sure everyone can find high-quality healthy options like Califarmia Fresh Tacos and Chef Rakka’s homemade hummus, as well as Daddy’s Dogs and Diskin Cider. We’ve also expanded our free children’s art area to include story time, clay making, face painting and a host of other activities all in the shady grove at the top corner of the festival.
How does this festival make art more accessible?
This festival was founded by my mother when I was just a baby – so I’ve been a part of this festival for forty-five years. Back then, the idea was simple: bring the artists direct to the community so they can share their experience and process with the community, and they in turn get to learn more about what it means to be a living, working artist. That idea continues today – and what’s more – visiting Centennial Park is one of the great soul-filling experiences in Nashville and I’ve always felt that bringing artists and visitors together under the great Magnolia trees makes ‘art collecting’ even more enjoyable for us all. While I love going to galleries and museums to learn about or collect, for some it can be intimidating — whereas in the park – we are all comfortable, so meeting the artists and collecting their work in this setting, is just like a walk in the park.
What are some of the booths you are making sure to stop at?
Its hard for me to pick – but I will say that over the past twenty years I have bought many beautiful works including at least one piece of pottery each year and one piece of jewelry. We have ten ceramic artists this year ranging from Bruce Odell’s wildly colorful Raku, to Rachel Gonzales’ modern yet elegant vases and so many other incredible artists. This year also showcases an unbelievable range of jewelers over 25 in all – I think possibly the best group of artists in terms of quality I’ve ever seen. Some jewelry highlights would be Sydney Strong’s rainbow diamond necklaces and earrings, or Taylor and Tessier’s layered necklaces and bracelets — it will be hard to choose this year and likely I will spend a lot of money on other things too like a Shibumi Silk wrap and hopefully a stone garden sculpture from Steven Hutchins for my backyard. So many things really that ‘spark joy’ for me, and as I walk through my house surrounded by these beautiful objects made with love I am always uplifted and happy to have them around me and my family.
How is public art incorporated?
Every year I award a grant to a public artist who creates something site specific for our event. Our first year we featured a massive ninety-foot wide flower shaped labyrinth called Grow Love, created by San Francisco based artists Tracy Ginsberg and Theodore Lillie. Last year we had two featured works from Nashville-based Beth Reitmeyer and Brett Douglass Hunter. This year we have a collection of birdhouse sculptures entitled Dwellings, created by Michael Korfhage. There will be three of these sculptures welcoming everyone coming in from the main entrance reminding us all of the juxtaposition of art and nature – as well as how beautifully they coexist in our world and especially at Centennial Park with the Parthenon as the backdrop.
What is one insider tip for having the best experience?
For me, it is the perfect way to celebrate Father’s Day. Coming to this event has always been about being with family and enjoying a moment when time stops and you can be present together with family for a few hours supporting artists and enjoying a beautiful day in the park. Maybe stop first to get some delicious food and maybe a craft cocktail while you enjoy some of Nashville’s best singer songwriters, then stroll around the festival and take in all the art and find something beautiful and artful to buy for yourself, as well as for your Dad maybe, and talk to a few of the artists and learn about their work and their process. At the end, maybe stop for a Bradley’s ice cream cone and walk by the public art installations to make sure to see the Dwellings before you leave.