What are we waiting for? Let’s create one. Let’s call it the Nancy Saturn Memorial Award and give it those art fair directors who care about artists only more than than care about art. We’ll give it to directors who want to bring the best art to their community, who treat the artists with respect, who want more than to line their pockets… well, you get the idea.
I should back up a bit. Who was Nancy Saturn and why name an award after her?
Nancy was the owner of the American Artisan Gallery in Nashville. She died in March 2010 of breast cancer — a cancer she thought she beat years ago.
Nancy and her husband Alan were well known as philanthropists and lovers of art and fine craft — and artists and fine crafters — far beyond their Nashville home. For the last 40 years, Nancy and her team hosted the American Artisan Fair in Nashville’s Centennial Park on Father’s Day weekend. An artist could apply to be in the show, but Nancy hand picked and invited the artists.
Once at the show, the artist was Nancy’s guest. She visited each of the 200 or so artists during the 3-day show. On the first night of the show, she opened her home to the artists for a feast worthy of a wedding. She told us what she liked. She told us what to work on. She was generally right.
More than that, Nancy cared about the quality of the show, the quality of the work and the needs of the artist. She fed us, she encouraged us, she nurtured new artists, she commiserated with the old artists.
She knew the power of art. The show has donated more than $1 million to Gilda’s Club of Nashville, to support people with cancer. Most of us donated work to be auctioned off for Gilda’s Club to supplement the fair’s contributions.
Nancy’s daughter, Samantha, and her team continue the tradition. This year’s fair, June 18-20, will be especially poignant. Nancy is gone. Alan died a few weeks before last year’s fair. And Nashville has been devastated by spring floods. We miss Nancy and Alan and wish only the best for Nashville families who are recovering. We will come to Nashville and hope our art will hasten the healing.
So why give this award to Deb Bailey?
Deb, with her team, runs the Marion Art Fest, in Marion IA. It’s a small town near Cedar Rapids. It’s a gem of a show and Deb pulls together 50 artists from all over the country to share with her fellow Iowans.
Now don’t be confused. Iowa is a not back-water flyover state, contrary to the opinion of some jaded city folk. It is a stated filled with some of the most educated and sophisticated art-lovers in the US. They know art, they like art, they buy art. And they count on Deb to bring the best and most varied work to their town. And she does.
But more, she cares about the artists. Her emails are personal and fun. Her directions are clear and specific. Her rules are minimal but intended to put on the best show possible and annoy the artists the least.
She markets the show. She brings in the right patrons. She feds us dinner and hands us a glass of wine. She makes artists feel valued and welcomed. Trust me, we don’t get that very much.
Congratulations, Deb. The first Nancy Saturn Memorial Award for Excellence in Art Fair Management goes to you. And thank you for setting the bar so high for all of us.
Artwork pictured: Last Stroll, ©2010 Jeane Vogel, Polaroid Painting.