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Bayou City Art Festival Returns

Artist manager Jeremy Smith previews the October 9–10 event.

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Bayou City Arts Festival is returning this year with it’s first major festival since the pandemic began.

It’s almost time again for one of Houston’s most iconic and fun art outings in Houston—the Bayou City Art Festival. This year’s festivities will take place downtown on Saturday, October 9, and Sunday, October 10, from
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

The festival is put on by the nonprofit Art Colony Association (ACA), which was established in 1972 to produce high-quality art festivals and events that provide financial support to local nonprofit organizations. Over the past 49 years, they have raised over three million dollars with their festivals. They are funded in part by grants from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance.

One of the key players in this year’s festival is ACA’s new artist relations manager, Jeremy Smith. Originally from Alaska, the 44-year-old has lived in Houston for more than 12 years. Smith explains that the festival is “an outdoor, juried fine-art festival. It is one of the largest and most prestigious fine-art festivals in the nation. The event offers patrons the opportunity to meet with more than 200 exhibiting artists, in 19 different mediums, from all over North America. Patrons will be able to purchase world-class art, prints, jewelry, textiles, sculptures, and more—at prices for everyone.”

Due to COVID-19, ACA intentionally planned a slightly smaller festival for this year, since it’s the first major festival to return to Houston since the pandemic began. “We will only have 210 exhibiting artists, as opposed to the usual 300. We are installing hand-sanitizing stations all over the festival site. We are encouraging social distancing as much as possible. We are making this festival a cashless event and giving individual artists the discretion to require masks inside their own booths.”

Art has the capacity to heal, Smith emphasizes. “Art brings people together. It brings communities together. Bayou City Art Festival is going into its 50th year of supporting access to art and art education in the Houston community. We provide a space for artists from all over the world to introduce their work to the people of Houston, and we’ve seen the positive impact and influence that art continues to have in this city.”

Artists must apply to participate in the festival, and a panel of jurors reviews the applications anonymously. “Meaning that the jury does not receive any demographic information about the artists. They only review images of the work submitted,” Smith says. “We typically receive 1,200 to 1,500 artist applications for each event.”

Smith wants every patron to feel inspired by the world-class art they see and purchase, and also to enjoy the incredible food, amazing music, and performance art. 

Artist Joel Anderson next to his painting ‘H-Town Skyline’

One of the artists showing in this year’s festival is Iowa native Joel Anderson, 62, who earned his bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from Iowa State University. When he was growing up, he was leaning toward being a doctor until he saw a man’s limb being amputated. That’s when he opted to pursue information technology as a career.  

When he retired, he wanted to do something completely different with his time. “Going from a secure paycheck to a self-employed person is the adventure I was looking for,” Anderson says. He had a “vague sense” that perhaps he’d do some woodworking, “but things finally clicked when I stumbled on encaustic painting, and found a way to bridge my information-technology background with painting.” 

As an encaustic painter, Anderson’s primary medium is beeswax mixed with resin. “My style combines clear imagery with a slight abstraction, and then a reassignment of color values. This results in something a little different, yet still familiar. Skylines and trees are my signature themes,” he says. 

With life so unpredictable and often frightening these days, Anderson believes art can provide solace as well as outrage. “It can set the mood, from calming trees to a stern portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It can put a smile on your face or light a fire under your butt. What else can do that?”

 When it comes to people understanding his art, he says with a laugh, “Each piece I create has some significance for me—a story, a reason for making it. You’re welcome to ask me, but you might not get the answer you were expecting!”

Being a part of the Bayou City Art Festival is important to Anderson for so many reasons. “It’s wonderful to see the enthusiasm and support for the arts from the crowds at Bayou City, and also reconnecting with fellow artists, art-loving friends, and former co-workers. People [from previous years even come back and] remind me, ‘Oh, I have one of your pieces!’”

Festival tickets are only available online and cannot be purchased at the gate. Purchase tickets at artcolonyassociation.org.

This article appears in the October 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Jenny Block

Jenny Block is a frequent contributor to a number of high-profile publications from New York Times to Huffington Post to Playboy and is the author of four books, including “Be That Unicorn: Find your Magic. Live your Truth. Share your Shine." She has appeared on a variety of television and radio programs from Nightline to BBC Radio to Great Day Houston and has performed and spoken at bookstores, events, conferences, and resorts in the US and Mexico, as well as on Holland America Cruise ships.
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