Since November 2003, Arts Alive has been a rallying point for locals bent toward creative endeavor. It kept our focus trained on the talented folks who live and move among us and introduced new generations to the value of these pursuits in rounding out life.
Arts Alive was enhanced the last three years by the simultaneous occurrence of two other artistic endeavors: Temporal City Festival and SouthSounds Music Festival. As told in this space previously, the first of those is going on hiatus, so it was concerning when murmurs surfaced Arts Alive might be in jeopardy.
“We had some issues with getting things broken down and set up between Saturday and Sunday,” organizer David Calametti said. “My first fear was that it might affect how we executed Sunday and you know how things are, that grew legs and took off. Next thing you know, I had people asking me if we were cutting down to one day.”
However, from what Calametti told Artifice, the opposite is in store. Artist vendors who previously had spaces for just Saturday and Sunday will be allowed to take their spots on the first night of the weekend as well.
“Friday night was just a cacophony of activity,” Calametti said. “There was so much going on, with 401 (Dauphin St.) and Temporal City, we feel it’s only fair to the artists utilizing our spaces to let them take advantage of Friday night, too.”
Calametti’s general assessment of the 2014 rendition was both good and bad. He acknowledges shortcomings, rough spots that need to be smoothed.
“There were a few people involved in the past that were missing this year,” he said, noting holes that need to be filled. “Part of it is me being a better communicator and letting people know they’re free to be involved.”
Azalea City Center for the Arts was a new participant this year. They created an instrument “petting zoo” for musical instruments, along the lines of what the Mobile Symphony and Pops have done in the past. Other opportunities slipped by, too.
“I didn’t know they were having that film festival at the Crescent,” Calametti said. “I didn’t know they were having that poetry slam at the library either. If they had told us we could have had it on the stage, and they could have had a few hundred people there instead of 50.”
Meanwhile, chances at expanding Arts Alive both chronologically and geographically have emerged. The managers of The Grounds, site of the annual Greater Gulf Coast Fair want Calametti to put Arts Alive on the road and stage it in their exposition hall during the first weekend of the annual autumn event, replacing the combination trade bazaar and 4H show that normally occupies that space.
“There’s 15,000 people that will be there that weekend that don’t normally think about arts or think about downtown, so if we can get them introduced to us a little bit and get them encouraged to come back and see us in the spring, then that’s a win for us,” Calametti said. “By the same token, if we can get 2,000 of our Arts Alive fans to come out to the fair that normally wouldn’t, then that’s a win for them as well.”
Calametti said meetings will begin in a couple of weeks to decide what will happen. Oct. 24 – 26 will be the first shot.
Artifice can already hear the skepticism as some decry this development as hurting Arts Alive or downtown, but I can assure you nothing of the sort is going on. It’s more like they are “bringing the mountain to Mohammed.” I agree with Calametti in that the people they reach were highly unlikely to come downtown for Arts Alive or much of anything at all and might be more likely to do so after exposure to what they find at the fairgrounds and establishing relationships with the cultural entities.
“We’re 11 years into this now. There’s a lifespan of events and the strength of Arts Alive is that we’ve kind of let it evolve organically,” Calametti said. “South Alabama Film Festival has come out of that, and Temporal City has come out of that and we’ve supported the music of SouthSounds, so there’s that canvas that we provide that’s important. We just have to be a channel to let that happen.”
He still sees room for improvement. He would like to see various genres received more attention.
“I’d like to do something more for literary arts, have authors come in and talk or something,” Calametti noted. “There’s also something at the Panoply Festival in Huntsville where they do a 10-minute theater competition.” Aspiring, novice and veteran playwrights watch as their works – running no longer than 10 minutes and containing no more than four characters, and for which they receive a $50 stipend – are performed and then adjudicated by a panel.
If the conversation with Calametti was an indication, the word of imminent demise is off mark. He sounded anything but dejected.
“Arts Alive is very important and it’s not going anywhere,” Calametti said. “With the continued growth of SouthSounds and working with those folks, with the energy from Friday Artwalk and now our partnership with The Grounds, I think we’ve got some really good energy.”