Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Director Sara Collins Offers Insights About the Bayfront Art Festival

Sara Collins
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that Duluth's hospitality industry is a-hoppin'. This weekend, the Duluth News Tribune dispatched a headline that implied tourism had reached a plateau, but a deeper look shows that there was still growth and only the weather (chilly and cold) crimped the tourism a tad.

One of the things that has amped tourism over the years, in addition to the beauty of the region itself, is the quantity of activities here from spring to fall. This past weekend included the Blues Fest, an outdoor art show at Brighton Beach and the Tall Ships event that parks in our harbor every three years.

This coming weekend, among other things, there will be Art in Bayfront Park. As one who follows the local arts extensively, it seemed good to catch up with festival director Sara Collins and learn more about this ongoing August tradition. The photos on this page are of some of the artists who were selected as winners in each of their respective mediums.

Dan Arnold, Wood
EN: Please explain how your event came to be, and how is it different in character from the Park Point Art Fair?

Sara Collins: Three years ago we acquired the festival from the original owner. We also produce the Stone Arch Bridge Festival in Minneapolis. The opportunity to work in Duluth at the spectacular Bayfront Park felt like a no-brainer. The North Shore has a strong history and reputation for supporting the arts which we’ve found to be very accurate. I’m not sure how we differ from Park Point. I think we both have a strong roster of talented artists. Our roster differs a bit with our two speciality markets, The Culinary Arts Market and Vintage & Vinyl Market. Those two additional markets are a lot of fun and really compliment the artists' work, creating a vibrant festival experience.

Daniel Fenn, Glass
EN: What kind of things do event promoters do behind the scenes to ensure a good event?

Darcy Horn, Beadwork
SC: Behind the scenes, our team starts working on the festival in December. Our artists are selected through a jury process. Applications start coming right away in December.

We work hard at creating a platform where artists shine and attendees discover something new. Also this year we joined efforts with Save the Boundary Waters organization and are hosting their fund raising music festival on Friday night. So that added a layer of challenges and great opportunities, too.

EN: What’s your favorite part of Art in Bayfront Park? The setting seems ideal for a show of this nature with its infinite circular walkabout.

SC: My favorite thing about the festival is meeting the artists. They are a never ending source of amazement! Their skills and dedication to their craft is really endearing.

EN: The weather is always a challenge for outdoor arts events. What other kinds of challenges do you face?

SC: The challenges are finding the balance between traditional aspects of an art festival and offering new and entertaining elements. Also we want to be a place for people to discover an appreciation for hand-crafted, one-of-kind art pieces. To attract those folks, we need to reach a broad audience.
David Ettedgui, Mixed Media
EN: Are you an artist yourself? What prompted you to create (if you did) or take over Art in Bayfront Park?

SC: I am not an artist. I am an art lover and art cheerleader! My husband and son are both artists so I “get” artists. I understand that business and art are not always happy companions. I hope our work helps artists reach more people and build their customer base.

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For more details about Art in Bayfront Park visit their website:

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