OK, there is a bit of breathless hyperbole on the press release for Westport’s 37th Annual Fine Arts Festival. Yes, it is indeed “held in one of the most affluent communities in the country.” Not sure what that has to do with good art, although that line might be designed to appeal to the artists considering setting up a stall.
“Nestled along the picturesque Saugatuck River,” the press release continues, overlooking the fact that urban renewal or whatever they called it really obscured the river years ago, and “Parker Harding Plaza” may sound prestigious, but it’s really a parking lot. So “sprawled across a parking lot, which gets unbearably hot in the summer” is less romantic but more accurate.
Bear with me here. I never miss this event, but I gotta call some people out for some puffery.
“The show is located in the quaint, downtown commercial district,” the press release goes on. You really lose the right to call downtown quaint once the local bookstores and gift shops are squeezed out by chain stores. LCR, Remarkable Bookshop and Klein’s all go and we’re left with Pottery Barn, J Crew and Banana Republic. They may be the better mall stores, but they’re still mall stores and you couldn’t really call them quaint.
I caught a glimpse of downtown Westport at the tail end of “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.” Gregory Peck was leaving what’s now Tavern on Main (one of the last sort-of quaint spots that Main Street really has). That really was an adorable downtown, the kind you have to go to Kent or Old Lyme to see today. But I digress.
“Original artwork will be viewed by thousands of shoppers who reside in Westport year round as well as many summer residents who call this upscale beach community home during the month of July,” they say. Uh, OK.
“With a long-standing tradition as an artistic community, the Westport Fine Arts Festival remains a highlight on the calendars of collectors from New England and Manhattan each year.” Hmmm. You’re teetering on hyperbole again. Real “collectors” don’t go to art fairs. I do, but not “collectors.”
But look, there are really good artists there — not Chelsea Gallery-good, but really good, and I’ve made a few sweet purchases there myself over the years. The art fair isn’t juried very strictly and lots of schlocky stuff, more decorative than expressive, gets in. Don’t be disappointed if the whole shebang doesn’t live up to the hype, but it’s still worth it to spend a day with these artists.
The festival is Saturday, July 17 to Sunday July 18.