Artists of Utah has been developing so quickly over that past two years that there may be many features to our website that some readers/surfers are still unaware of. One of these is the Venue Vybe, located in our forums section, which invites artists to post their comments about various exhibition and sales venues in an effort to inform other artists and increase dialogue about what venues should be. The following is a submission to the Venue Vybe by Lisa Huber, our correspondent in St. George. The opinions expressed in this article and in posts of Venue Vybe are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Artists of Utah or 15 Bytes.
If you thrive on great flute music, wish to purchase an incredible sounding and/or beautiful flute (made from ”burled” maple), can’t wait to test drive every flute you can possibly get your lips around, would love to take a flute-making workshop, or learn how to play your new flute—and do all of this in one of the most breathtaking settings in the world, then the Zion Canyon Art and Flute Festival in Springdale, Utah, just outside of Zion’s Park, is for you. Two and a half days each fall are devoted solely to mingling with other “flutees,” exchanging tips, stories, songs, and spit.
On the other hand, if you are looking to visit or participate in an arts festival in Southern Utah, don’t be fooled by the title of this festival. With the name “Zion Canyon Art and Flute Festival” one might think that art has top billing, or at least that art might be part of the festival. On the contrary, art has little or no billing at this event. It is not clear why the organizers use the term in their title or invite anyone other than flute vendors to participate. Artists and crafters are invited to this festival with the promise of large crowds and the organizers’ interest in promoting the artists; but the festival is all about flutes. Which is great, but the festival should be named “Zion Canyon Flute Festival.” It is a disservice to those vendors who have spent their time and money on booth spaces, gasoline, expensive lodging and restaurants, only to have the event organized such that for the most part all potential “customers” are attending flute concert “tapings” and workshops in a building 300 yards from the booth area. As a result, most vendors I spoke to did not sell enough to pay for their booth space.
Further, of a boasted 50-plus booths there was one food vendor, one photographer, 2 painters, a potter, 2 jewelers, a wood-maker and a tie-dyer—the rest of the booths were selling flutes and flute paraphernalia or drums. In a town where art galleries are everywhere you turn, it seems odd that artists must be coerced to attend this event and then treated as if they didn’t show up. I was told by one local gallery manager that they represent over 80 artists. Why aren’t those artists participating in the festival? Why aren’t local gallery owners participating? Because they already know it is a flute festival?
Artist vendors at the festival, including myself, were frustrated with multiple facets of the festival, including poor organization. Statements made in the rules for vendors were never carried out. Festival times were different than appeared on their website and changed daily and with every official. Booth spaces were “first come first serve” rather than assigned. There was no vendor parking and loading/unloading was a “pack it in/pack it out” ordeal as no vehicles were allowed on the field (contrary to online vendor information). The “vendor packet” never materialized. Tax information arrived for most people on the afternoon of the last day, so there was confusion about the tax rate. Advertising consisted of a couple of banners on telephone poles and a sign at the end of town. The festival was hidden half a mile off the main road on a ball field behind the parking lot of two new city buildings and indicated by one small sign and an arrow which read only “Festival.” The fact that it rained for most of the day on Saturday of the festival only made things worse, but even with the sunshine, no customers materialized. Since this was the second year of the event, hopefully the organizers will work through some of the problems for future festivals.
If you receive an invitation to participate next October in the 2007 “Zion Art and Flute Festival,” remember that it is really a flute festival. And it is a great flute festival, highlighting Native American flute styles. If you would like to visit the area to take advantage of the park and the plentiful art galleries, especially at this time of year when tourist levels are low, you won’t be sorry, as it is a great trip at about 4 hours from Salt Lake, 3 from Las Vegas and 1 from St. George. If you are an artist and specialize in Southwestern art, you might bring some samples of your work along to show to the local galleries.
To comment on this article or on another venue, go to the Venue Vybe in our Forums section.
Lisa B. Huber is a native Utah artist who works in pencil and watercolors. She is also a published poet and writer, works by day as a Software Developer, and resides in Washington City, Utah.