As in years past, the city and county of Denver has allowed the creatives to take over key real estate in Denver. The Cherry Creek Arts Festival, enjoyed by sun bathers and strollers by day and select parties at night, launched today (July 3, 4 and 5) with droves of tents. The Denver Biennial (July 1-31) is an attempt to elevate the cultural, art and political traditions found in the Western Hemisphere hosted in Denver. For those unaware of the Biennial of the Americas it “..will bring together established and emerging leaders in the arts, culture, sciences, politics, economics and technology communities, facilitating the development of a unified vision for the future of the Western Hemisphere.” What the Biennial desires is what the Cherry Creek Arts Festival organizers lack.
Traditional to the festival is the argument that mass exposure is the greatest social networking that the area and the participants can receive. To it’s credit, the festival brings food and beverage sales to hordes of vendors, temporary restaurants and a mixed bag of citizens who otherwise would be elsewhere in the city or state this weekend. Like so many Denver events, the CCAF takes advantage of the spirit of independence through the tent operators while featuring Denver’s great outdoor atmosphere.
Concern for the year round retailers and local restaurateurs remains next to non-existent. For someone like Show of Hands located on the east side of Clayton and Second the festival poses a level of competition. The store’s product line has some category similarities with what can be bought from the temporary, non-vested retailers. This is a concern shared by other art galleries, jewelers and designers. In the past organizers have argued that awareness of “art” is what matters. With corporate sponsorship and non-profit status, this standard answer might seem logical and easy to ignore. Yet in a depressed economy, every sale counts to those who make the district what it is. The district retailers are constantly aware of the importance of maintaining an elegant standard. At the soon to be removed Fillmore Plaza, CCAF allowed luxury cars for sale to gleam next to the main stage and Hermes. Like other merchants, Show of Hands’ loss of ground floor visibility, even temporarily, is a problem that the event does not compensate tenants for and has yet to solve beyond alternating tent positions yearly. This year happened to be Show of Hands unobstructed year.
As for the art and culture found in each tent: artists from around the country aspire to be selected by the festival. While the Biennial brings world leaders to vacant downtown hotels like The Brown Palace, Hotel Teatro, the Oxford and the Ritz-Carlton, Cherry Creek fills parking lots with artists, their vans and their lodging reservations. The work is tiring for the artists but many are grateful for the access to an open arms community like Cherry Creek and Denver. At the corner of St. Paul and 3rd, on third, Mr. Chris McCarthy is optimistic for his first Cherry Creek North experience. McCarthy drove his van full of fine art glass works from his St. Louis, MO studio called Park Avenue Glass to Cherry Creek on Thursday evening. The outgrowth of passion and countless hours behind the glass blower’s pipe has enabled Chris to become a national glass blower and festival favorite. His methods and traditions are time tested. His influences stem from the Seattle workshops, the Murano studios of Venice and the countless encounters from his own artist community back home in St. Louis. For McCarthy it is a family affair – his wife and daughter assist in greeting potential customers and guiding them to a work that only days earlier was fresh from the intense heat and flames that McCarthy carefully navigates. In a few days, he like the others selling to the festival loyalists will know how successful this event is – as they pack up and move to the next festival found in other cities nationally. One thing is certain every sale counts and both McCarthy and store owners like Show of Hands are always delighted when the register and credit card machine “rings.” While sales likely will be because of local visitors, the city hopes that world leaders take note of how this cultural and economic event stimulates the local district annually.