Art Festival Newsletter | January 2022
Spotlight on Show: Stone Arch Bridge Festival and Art at Bayfront Park with Sara Collins
This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Sara Collins, Festival Director of the 27th Annual Stone Arch Bridge Festival (Minneapolis, MN) and the 13th Annual Art in Bayfront Park (Deluth, MN).
Talk about your philosophy in managing both the Stone Arch Bridge Festival and Art in Bayfront Park: Our priority is the people. First, the artists are paramount. Every idea we brainstorm and decision we make must go through the filter of the artists’ perspective. If it’s good for them, it’s good for us. Second, our team. We have a very unique situation because our leadership team has been together for many years. We come together each summer with a big sense of pride and respect for what we’ve built in our communities. Every year artists tell me that working with our team gives them peace of mind that things will be taken care of, organized and they know we really value their participation. Nothing beats a trusted familiar face! And last but not least, our attendees. We have a strong commitment to producing a safe, inspired and fun event! Fun and fresh are really important elements to keep folks coming back year after year.
Minnesota loves festivals and hosts some of the best art shows in the county – what differentiates your shows? One asset our two festivals share is LOCATION. LOCATION. LOCATION. Stone Arch Bridge Festival is a legacy event – this will be 27th year. Our location is unbeatable. We’ve been a part of the development of the Minneapolis riverfront and seen lots of growth and changes. It’s a thriving neighborhood of metro meets residential. Art in Bayfront Park is in one of Minnesota’s best known and beloved areas right next to Duluth’s Canal Park and Lake Superior. Frankly there is not a better place to be in August than Duluth Minnesota. We benefit from a supportive Duluth/North Shore arts community and weekend tourists/vacationers.
What are you looking for when an artist applies to your shows and what advice would you give?
My advice for applicants is: Don’t underestimate the impact of your photos. At this point, it’s something you can't skimp on or assume the jury knows more about your work than what you are representing in your photos. The competition is strong so put a lot of thought into what you show the jury. My advice for participants: Maximize your experience by engaging with your customers. Last summer I had a conversation with an emerging artist who told me they were so happy they got the opportunity to participate because they learned what people were drawn to. Because he was just getting started, this was very helpful to him. For all artists, if you are engaging in selling your work, feedback is important. Festivals offer a terrific opportunity for this.  
How has COVID impacted your shows? Have you made any changes? After re-launching and successfully hosting both festivals last summer, we came away feeling very hopeful. The community came out in full force to support the festivals and get back to having a great time. Throughout the summer and through the winter, we’ve seen pop up markets everywhere. I’m not sure how this will impact the larger shows but right now artists seem to have more opportunities in different formats. Also many artists developed their online sales which proved to be really positive. From my perspective as a businessperson, these developments provide artists the opportunity for overall growth especially if used together to support the artist’s ‘brand’. At our core, we support artists so what is good for them, is good for us. We need to ensure that what we bring to the table is current and a benefit to their business. From my experience, nothing can replace the energy, grassroots development, exposure to new customers, comradery among artists and fun you find at large public art festivals. Logistically, we all really liked the flow created by giving each tent a bit more room by spacing them out more than we have in the past. I’ll continue to do that.
When you think about the future of art shows, what do you see 10 years from now?
Wow – good question. I think art shows at their core are about inspiration. I watch attendees strolling the festival, pausing wide-eyed to look at a work of art and discuss it with a friend. I’ve seen people who look like they have discovered a pirate's treasure within an artist’s tent. The conversations that happen when someone asks the artist, “How do you do that?” can last 2 - 20 minutes or more. I’m not sure how the format will change or evolve but I don’t think there is an end to bringing art out to the community. It’s the ultimate vehicle to move someone from an admirer of one of a kind, original artwork to an owner. I find that once a person experiences the specialness of owning hand selected work of art whether it’s in their home, or a piece they wear, it won’t be their last. 
Contact Robin Markowitz at
The Art-Linx website has the most current Call to Artist information