While the RiverArtsFest is having its debut this weekend, it's not really new. The visual and performing arts festival, hosted by the South Main Arts District, has its roots in Arts in the Park, the much-beloved annual event that was held in various locations, including Overton Park and the Memphis Botanic Garden.
Some of the early Arts in the Park organizers have come together again to work on RiverArtsFest, according to Jay Etkin, owner of Jay Etkin Gallery. Etkin, whose gallery was chosen to host the invitational exhibit for the festival, is in a unique position. A veteran of Arts in the Park as well as an established gallery owner on South Main Street, Etkin values both the artistic and the commercial sides of the festival. "The festival can share an audience with the Main Street stores and restaurants," Etkin says. "Everyone can benefit from it. It's syncretistic."
For former Arts in the Park devotees who may be skeptical of the more urban atmosphere of the new RiverArtsFest, Etkin has only assurances.
"It's very much like Arts in the Park," says Etkin, with a grin, "only with much less grass."
RiverArtsFest, Friday-Sunday, October 26th-October 28th, South Main Arts District. Admission is free. For more information, go to riverartsfest.org. (At Right: Painting by Roger Cleaves at jay Etkin Gallery.)