Steve White might've skipped town, but Yardfest—his famous yearly front yard, folk art hootenanny—is apparently going to bear offspring here in Albuquerque for a long time to come. "We were all just so inspired by Steve White's Yardfest," says Mary Lambert of the OFFCenter Community Arts Project, one of the organizers of this Saturday's We Art the People: Folk Arts Festival. "That people from all over the country could come together to promote art that's outside the mainstream is just really cool."
To keep the folk art tradition alive and kicking here in Albuquerque, a bunch of organizations and individuals have joined forces to put on this Saturday's festival at Robinson Park, located at Eighth and Central. The festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., right after the weekly Downtown Grower's Market.
"The festival revolves around participatory art," Lambert says. "It isn't about just sitting around and looking at art other people are making. There'll be lots of opportunities to get involved and make art yourself."
Sometime during the festival, a mysterious large-scale collaborative art piece will be constructed from recycled materials. Folks will also have a chance to join in a band and beat on a bunch of crazy rhythm instruments provided by Kevin Kincane. Out ch'Yonda and VSA have organized a giant puppet street performance called As the Tables Turn. A huge tent called the ExplorARTorium will be available for those who want to make their own art. Then, of course, there will be plenty of art for sale by local artists, along with art demonstrations and displays by various nonprofits including St. Martin's, the Opportunity Center, the Center for Peace and Justice, Media Rights Foundation, La Montanita Co-op and Food not Bombs.
"We got a little bit of money from the Urban Enhancement Trust Fund," says Lambert. "We also got a bit from Wells Fargo. We wrestled with what to do with that kind of sponsor. The last thing we wanted was a bunch of plastic corporate signage all over the place. How do we let them be represented but not in the same old way? We ended up telling anyone who wants to be a sponsor that we can't put their name in lights, but can put it in beans. (laughs) In other words, they have to come up with their own hand-made signs if they want to be represented at the festival."
Although Lambert put an enormous amount of effort into planning the event, she's careful to note that lots of people and organizations made this thing happen. "One of the aims of this is that it's a nonhierarchical event. There's no boss-person. We figure out what the jobs are and then we get it done. You have to deal with an element of chaos working that way, but it ensures that all voices are heard. It's about all of us, not just one person or one organization."
We Art the People is about more than just outsider art. It's really an experimental exercise in community building. "The focus," says Lambert, "is on collaborating with existing arts organizations and those working for social justice. We're all alienated from each other in a way, because we're often competing for the same dollars. As independent organizations, we need to work hard to get our names out and be known. This festival is a way for us to combine forces and spread the word."