Celebration! A Look at the Art of the Festival
About this Issue
"This is who we are. Every year when I come to the festival I want to say, 'City of Houston, look around you, this is who we are.'" In this quote from the NEA research report Live from Your Neighborhood: A National Study of Outdoor Arts Festivals, a volunteer was talking about the Houston International Festival, but he could have been talking about any arts festival. The report demonstrated that festivals are very important to local communities, providing a place where segments of the community that may not regularly interact can gather and celebrate together. Not only that, but festivals generate a sense of pride for local arts and culture. That's not all that's generated: festivals contribute to the local economies, stimulating local tourism industries.
The most important role the festivals play, though, may be how the festivals transform their communities. Both FloydFest and the Telluride Film Festival have changed sleepy towns into internationally renowned arts destinations. Atlanta's National Black Arts Festival shows how a festival showcasing one ethnic group can elevate the city as a whole artistically, and the Berkshires -- host to numerous theater and other festivals -- demonstrates how place and community can support festivals as much as festivals support place and community. And festivals do support community, as Chicago's Printers Row Lit Fest shows, where an unlikely festival (do people still read books?) helped to rejuvenate a dying neighborhood in the city.