by Jenna Schiferl
Alexandra White has been doing art festivals since she was four years old. She often accompanied her mother, who was an oil painter, to various shows and exhibitions from a young age. White is now an artist herself, specializing in acrylic and oil mixed media pieces. Her work, under which she is better known by the name Abstract Alexandra, is displayed in galleries across the United States. She has been an active member of the arts community for more than 20 years, and her accomplishments as an art advocate led to the creation of the South Carolina Artists group and the She Festival.
It only seems natural that White would eventually fill the role as the Visual Arts Coordinator of Columbia’s only micro urban festival. The 7th annual Rosewood Art & Music Festival is slated to occur Sep. 30 next to Rockaway Athletic Club. Festival Director David Britt explains that the phrase “micro urban” means that Columbia possesses desirable attributes commonly found in larger cities.
“The festival enjoys an array of talent, yet keeps an intimate feel. Its ethos is simple: celebrating art and community,” Britt says.
Founded in 2001 by Forrest Whitlark and Arik Bjorn, the vision of the festival was to create a free, inclusive space for artists and musicians within the Shandon and Rosewood community.
The festival is unique in more ways than one. In addition to being a micro urban festival, the event differs from others in that it exclusively focuses on fine arts. As the Visual Arts Coordinator, White oversees artist applications and facilitates the selection process.
“Originality and artistic quality are the main, but not the sole criteria, used to select exhibitors and juried show artists. Other factors such as; the clarity of images provided and their ability to be viewed online, also contributed to the decision. Moreover, we like to include a variety of media, subjects, and artistic styles,” White says.
This year, the festival received over 100 exhibitor submissions. Artists were able to submit work from a myriad of categories including digital art, pottery, ceramics, sculpture, photography, fiber, jewelry, wood, metal, glass, and installation, among other things. The submissions must be whittled down to only 50 exhibitor slots that are available.
“It can be hard because you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but you can’t be everyone's friend. So you have to make a decision that’s best for the festival. And that’s what we do. We make decisions that are best for the festival,” White says.
After initial application, vendors are placed on one of three main festival maps. She emphasized the importance of correct placement of artists in relation to their neighbors.
“You may end up being at a festival that you paid $800 to be a part of, and you’re next to people doing the same kind of work that you do. I’ve always found that infuriating, that people don’t take the time to separate people and organize them,” White says.
She pointed out that without proper artist arrangement, it creates a chaotic and overwhelming experience for both the festival-goer and the exhibitor.
“It raises that anxiety and it raises that competition, instead of everyone working together as a common good within the community,” she says.
Both Britt and White mentioned that the Juried Show is what really separates the festival from similar events. The festival will give over $2000 in award money to the winners of the juried exhibit. A panel of 2-3 professionals within the art community will judge the works based on a detailed numeric gauge system.
Even with the festival 20 days out, White works with accepted artists each step of the way. She hosted a forum to answer any questions artists might have about the festival or the itinerary.
“It is an opportunity for artists to gain more insight about being in the festival, and gives them key points on how to successfully display and promote their work. In short: we take care of our artists!” Britt says.
The festival also boasts a stellar lineup of musical performances. Alarm Drum, Grace Joyner, and Debbie and the Skanks will perform on stage one, while Cletus Baltimore, Post Timey String Band, and Flat Out Strangers will perform on the second stage.
The festival features free admission and will kick off at 10 a.m. on Saturday. White offers a piece of advice for potential festival-goers.
“Come with a clear mind. Ask questions … Don’t ever feel like the artist is unapproachable, because all artists are approachable … Come with an eagerness to learn or just enjoy the surroundings and take it all in. Art is created to make us happy. It’s what makes us distinctly human,” she says.