When gay couple Patrick Dennis and Randall Fox decided to move forward last year with the idea of an arts festival in Chastain Park, they had no doubt it would be successful. It was, and their second annual Chastain Park Arts Festival is poised to be even bigger than the first.
The festival features an array of artists from Atlanta and the region, including painters, jewellers, potters and sculptors. The event will kick off with a family film on Friday night and the actual festival will be on the weekend. Dennis says that a lot of people browse around on Saturday and then make purchases on Sunday. He is ecstatic that the weather forecast for next weekend is clear and sunny.
More than 600 artists submitted to be in the festival this year and a maximum of 170 were chosen. One of the reasons he and Fox wanted to do the festival is that he laments the fact that so many local artists have trouble getting into other Atlanta-area festivals. Dennis owns a gallery in Decatur and has heard first-hand how tough it can be.
“We had a lot of requests from all the artists we know to do this, because it’s so hard getting in to those other festivals,” he says.
The couple had no hesitation about starting the event.
“We knew this is an area where something like this would be popular,” Dennis says. “We live in Chastain and there has never been a festival there. It can be said that Atlanta doesn’t need another festival, but we found we could serve the community by having an event in our backyard.”
One key to the festival’s success is that it is staged by artists for artists. “We know what is important for artists,” says Dennis. “It’s also the lowest cost festival of its kind in the Southeast.”
He says that the same number of artists who displayed their work in 2009 are displaying this year – with many returning artists — but he expects bigger turnout in the park.
Besides being successful, the 2009 festival made it into the Guinness World Records. Fox called around to find out how the festival could get into the record books, and as a result he and Dennis set up what was the world’s longest line of pumpkin pies.
This year the festival has another distinction: its own IPhone application. According to Dennis, the Chastain Park Arts Festival is the only arts festival in the country with its own app. Besides a commercial for the event, the app features information on all the displaying artists and contact information for them.
The Chastain Park area is very family friendly, Dennis says. “However, this is Atlanta,” he adds, meaning gays and lesbians are very much everywhere. “It’s not Cobb County. It’s very inclusive.”
He has no way of knowing the breakdown of visitors but does know many gays and lesbians are in the mix. Likewise, some of the participating artists are gay and lesbian but that is not the overriding consideration. A jury chooses all the participants based on merit, and Dennis and Fox were pleasantly surprised when they discovered that a majority of the artists chosen were local.
So passionate were the two about doing this, they helped get a law changed to accommodate the festival.
“We helped get the ordinance changed that would allow people to sell their work outside here,” Dennis says.
The couple has been together for 10 years now. Dennis laughs that Fox doesn’t have an artistic bone in his body, but he did come up with the idea for the festival.
The 2009 festival went so well that they have added a second festival during the calendar year. The fall festival is focused on fine arts while a spring one is devoted to arts crafts.
Top photo: Founded by partners Patrick Dennis and Randall Fox, the Chastain Park Arts Festival focuses on local artists. (Courtesy photo)