Kudos to the city of Marco Island’s Arts Advisory Committee for their “Arts Afire”, a showcase of exhibits and performances, March 12-20. Check out their planned events at marcoislandartsafire.com. Through the years, a number of arts organizations on the island have worked diligently to incorporate art into the cultural life of our residents. A vibrant arts community is important for economic development. It attracts visitors and homebuyers and is important to the children of a community and our future workforce. Research has shown that students exposed to the arts perform better academically and improve development of the core competencies of creative thinking and problem solving.
For centuries, art tourism has been popular; virtually every tourist destination offers a listing of venues and calendar of events. People who enjoy art often choose to travel to places where they can immerse themselves or experience something new. The world’s best museums attract millions of visitors. The Louvre in Paris, Uffizi in Florence, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Vatican Museums, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, Art Institute of Chicago, London’s Tate and British Museums. The list goes on. Visiting these repositories of treasures can be exhausting; the more sensitive risk a bit of Stendhal syndrome, begin overwhelmed by the all encompassing beauty.
Speaking of being overwhelmed, the sheer number of arts festivals worldwide is mind boggling. There are thousands in the United States alone;most tourist destinations of any worth now offer some type of art show or festival. Sunshine Artist magazine annually identifies a list of 200 of the best shows in the US. Among some of the top recognized nationally are those in Ann Arbor,Michigan, Clayton, Missouri, Denver, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Des Moines, Chicago, Kansas City, and the Coconut Grove Arts Festival in Miami.
Some towns become known for their festivals. The Biennale in Venice, Italy. Miami’s Art Basel. South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. Park City, Utah’s Sundance film festival, Kimball art festival, and summer music festival. Charleston’s Spoleto. Bumbershoot in Seattle. The Santa Fe Indian Market.
Music festivals abound and include classical, blues, folk, jazz, rock, fringe, almost any genre you can imagine. Salzburg, Austria and Mountreux and Lucerne in Switzerland attract international crowds, as do the Newport Folk and Jazz festivals and Tanglewood in the Berkshires, Massachusetts. Other popular ones in the US are held in Aspen, Denver, and Telluride, Colorado, Highland Park and Chicago, Illinois, Palm Springs and Ojai, California, and Manchester, Tennessee
Shakespeare festivals are popular. Canada has more than two dozen. They range from sea to sea with the twin Shakespeare by the Sea Festivals in Halifax, Nova Scotia and St. John’s, New Foundland to Bard on the Beach in Vancouver, British Columbia. The most renowned is in Stratford, Ontario. My guess is you could probablyfind a Shakespeare festival in every US state including Alaska with its outdoor one in Fairbanks and Hawaii, with Dame Judy Dench serving as the official patron of theirs. Well known ones in the United States include Cedar City, Utah, Bloomington, Illinois, Ashland, Oregon, Spring Green, Wisconsin, Boulder, Colorado, and Shakespeare in the Park, New York City.
Dance festivals range from the American Dance Festival featuring modern dance in Durham, North Carolina to the International (folk) Dance Festival in Rexburg, Idaho, to the classical Vail International Dance Festival. Every state hosts theater festivals; Williamstown in the Berkshires, Massachusetts is among the most prestigious. Film festivals are prolific; in addition to the aforementioned Sundance, the most influential ones internationally are in Cannes, Toronto, Berlin, Venice, and New York City.
Since the 1970’s, many cities have actively pursued art in public places programs to enhance the character of their locales. As a headline last year in the “Atlanta Business Chronicle” touted, “Great Cities Embrace Great Public Art.” In recognition of their cultural, aesthetic and economic importance, almost all towns and cities of any stature have adopted such programs. Websites and literature are published to identify attractions for residents and visitors. In addition to permanent collections, fun events are planned such as those similar to the ever popular CowParade.
Remember Marco Island’s “Dolphin Debut”? How much fun it is to travel our island and see the few surviving creations. Our Dolphin Debutwas fashioned after the CowParade. Inspired by an artist in Zurich, Switzerland, there have been CowParade events in more than 50 cities worldwide since the first one in 1999 Chicago. Cow sculptures are decorated by artists, displayed, and then auctioned for charity. From cows, other cities have adopted other animals; painted ponies in Santa Fe, pelicans in various cities in Florida, Oregon, and Louisiana. Jacksonville, Florida had its manatees, Baltimore, Maryland, crabs. Pigs in Seattle, fish in New Orleans, moose in Park City, javelinas in Sedona, and ducks in Eugene, Oregon. Animals evolved into other themes. Columbia, South Carolina had palmetto trees, San Francisco sponsored hearts, and urban trees and cool globes in San Diego. It is amusing to visit some of these locations and encounter the remaining pieces.
There are many reasons to travel. Exposure to art, whether the old masters or new cutting edge works, a piece admired for centuries, or a work purchased to decorate our living rooms, can be an impetus or bonus to the travel experience.
Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.