Could there be a more perfect Father’s Day gift than some original art?
This weekend the American Artisan Festival returns to the front lawn of Nashville’s Centennial Park June 15-17 for its 44th year.
The festival is free, family-friendly, and open to the public. There will be 150 artists from across America, fun kid-friendly art projects, an amazing range of artisanal food, drink and craft cocktails and live music performances all weekend long curated by SESAC.
“Bringing the community together around art is the mission – but making it fun for the whole family is what makes it unique,” says Samantha Saturn, festival director and daughter of the show’s founders. “I have worked hard to step up the rest of the show as well – we’ve got four different free arts and crafts activities for kids running throughout the weekend so they too can participate in the mission of connecting with art. I feel that because we are in Centennial Park that it is also important to create some site specific temporary art experiences for visitors – just for fun. Beth Reitmeyer and Brett Douglas Hunter will both be bringing interesting work which will be installed for people to just walk through and engage with – further elevating your experience connecting to art.”
Saturn spoke with Nashville Interiors about the importance of the show to her family, why Nashville’s artistic community stands out and what she is hoping to snag at this year’s festival.
Tell me about the festival and your family involvement?
The festival began when I was just a little girl back in the early seventies. My mother started a craft business which was then called The Craft Cranny. It was located back then on Bandywood Drive in one of those small houses, and as a way to promote the work, she started a backyard festival which took over a few yards in the back and the artists would come and sell their work. Later on she changed the business to The American Artisan and moved to a new location in Belle Meade, but she always felt that the festival was important because it brought the artists together with the customers. For her, and later for me, this was the best part of the work – because the artists who came each year became our family, and the show became an annual tradition that Nashvillians truly loved because they got to meet the artists and learn about their artistic process – which of course makes collecting their work more interesting and fun.
Why is is so important to you to keep the festival going?
The festival represents so many things to me personally. I spent every summer of my life in this park helping produce this event along side my family, the artists and our friends – so it is the center of my Nashville community. Of course, both of my parents have passed away and while it was my mothers creation, it was always held on Father’s Day and those who knew my father know how much he adored this event and celebrating Father’s Day with us, at the festival every year. And finally, as a person who has always loved collecting art and promoting artists, it is just amazing to have the opportunity to curate a festival of art and bring artists and customers together in a park, in my hometown, surrounded by everyone I love. It connects me to my roots and at the same time lifts me up creatively.
Are there any changes since the first one 44 years ago? How about since you brought it back last year to this?
As I mentioned earlier – it was once very small – maybe 20-30 exhibitors and it was held over the same weekend each year, but in the gravel parking lot of several small Bandywood businesses. However, the mission has always been the same: to bring the artists here to demonstrate their work, to share their process, and to facilitate a dialog between artists and the Nashville community. Collecting art can seem so elusive really – and I think my mother taught me through all of this – that talking to a photographer or a ceramic artist about his or her work, why they do it, what is means – is something we don’t often get the chance to experience. Once you have a deeper understanding of what goes into an artists work, that is made by hand, with love and intention – buying it becomes more meaningful and holding it in your hands becomes more special.
What does it say about Nashville to have so many artists and creatives?
Nashville has always been a town that has what I call a humble soul. It is that which attracts creative spirits because its like a porch swing: it gives you the space to move yet be surrounded by people who care deeply about real stories, good songs, and family. I think that energy attracts creative spirits of a certain breed and I know that is why Nashville is so beloved by so many – because of that humble soul. Even with all the explosive growth here, you can still feel it, I think.
What is your favorite art to collect? How many pieces have you gotten at the festival?
I love collecting across the board – both 2D and 3D works, decorative and functional. I did have incredible role models in my parents who taught me the importance of investing in art and artists. They brought home art all the time and I could see the joy it brought to them. I also learned along the way to buy what you love. It isn’t about following others when it comes to collecting – it is all about the personal connection and it happens really when you least expect it I find. That said, as far as collecting at the Festival each year, I have bought at least one piece of pottery and one piece of glass for the past 20 years (and often wood, furniture, sculpture and other things I love that don’t fit into a box). I love functional art because it is tactile and you get to use it every day. I have also bought at least one photograph every year for the past 10 years and I never know what is going to speak to me but every year something does. When I walk through my home and see all of those works, or open my kitchen cabinets to serve dinner on a beautiful platter – it always makes me smile.
Are you looking for anything specific to purchase this year?
YES! This year I’m eager to add some long necklaces to my jewelry collection as I seem to wear those all the time. I am also interested in a fun garden sculpture or a bird bath for my backyard now that I live in a place with a backyard – and of course I’ll be looking to add to my ceramics, glass and photography collections. I am also really loving handmade prints – we’ve got some incredible printmakers this year. I’d also like to buy my husband a beautiful wooden box to keep his wallet and keys so that is on my Father’s Day list for him. Honestly, I have to be careful because I’d like to buy something from everyone! If anyone needs help making their list – you know who to ask!