Visual Arts

Summer Fest: Not Just Championing Music, But Also Local Art and Design

If you spent any time at Free Press Summer Fest this weekend, you could tell that not only did the music festival have some killer musical programming (Willie, Snoop, the Flaming Lips...), it was also pretty as hell. Okay, aside from all the vendors slinging pipes, lemonade and ice cream. Well, I gave that huge ice cream cone some money, I couldn't help it.

One of the aims of festival staff member Dutch Small was to spotlight some of the artists in town, who designed the experiences inside the two Fancy Pants tents, and also some of the larger-scale outdoor installations.

On Saturday morning, myself and some other media folks took a small tour of the grounds before they became inundated with more than 60,000 hot, sweaty and half-nude people. Oh, and sushi masters from Uchi were there to feed us breakfast. Have you ever had the brains of Phillip Speer and Kaz Edwards concocting your morning meal? That's just a tad rad.

Small's argument is that with an event like Summer Fest, there is no reason that the organizers cannot spotlight local artists as much as they showcase local musicians. That's why on flyers and adverts for Summer Fest, Houston acts like the Tontons and others were listed next to people like Pretty Lights and Best Coast.

It's a no-brainer, then, that all forms of artisans from Houston would have a go at making Summer Fest a uniquely Houston experience. From signage to the installations dotting Eleanor Tinsley Park, it was impossible not to taste Bayou City flavor in everything you touched, tasted or heard.

The thinking being that if we can all get these artists enough support here, then we won't be losing them to other places like New York City. If we keep the art at the forefront, then there will be no escaping seeing it.

Two of the Fancy Pants tents, where you could sip cocktails from Anvil and pig out on Hay Merchant foodstuffs, were designed by locals. One was done up Christmas style, with an iron tree in the middle. Another was fashioned after the city skyline. A third featured snarky word-bubbles suspended above festival-goers, all written by Free Press staffer John Mills-McCoin.

As the organizers look toward the fifth Summer Fest (ZZ Top and Turbonegro, please), Small and his team are already looking into artists to turn the festival into another feast for the eyeballs while your earholes are being massaged in 2013.

No word yet on if they are going to enclose the festival in a giant air-conditioned dome.

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty