We always shudder when the question of good taste is left in the hands of promoters. Marketability inevitably reigns over innovation.

And so it was at the recent Las Olas Art Fair. As far as being a "fair," it certainly was a draw; crowd estimates were put at 100,000 people over the two days. But as for "art," it was far too predictable and mainstream.

More crafts than art were on display, and the fair was overloaded with cute. Pictures of polar bears in the wilderness next to glass dolphins, and of course those overdone tropical paintings were everywhere. Try as we might we couldn't find any original fine "art" worth the price.

Garish gold jewelry can be found at every mall, so why have it at a so-called festival? But then these festivals (this one was sponsored by Cadillac) are targeted at the wealthy who are hoping to furnish their winter homes in various shades of turquoise. No wonder the majority of the crowd had their A.A.R.P. cards.

One wonders where the avant-garde artists of South Florida hide when it comes time to pick the exhibitors. The press release states that 1500 artists were considered and the 300 best were chosen to set up their tents. But out of the 300, where were the young and ambitious artists willing to take a chance? Also missing were Haitian or other Caribbean artists. So why do we see the same artists here as in Weston and other festivals if an independent jury makes a decision on who gets in? And as for music, why is it the same guy is plucking the sitar at the Boca fest and Las Olas?

Well that's because the same jury picks the exhibitors for many of these events, and the jury is chosen by the promoter. That's right, Howard Alan Events runs 80 of these so-called festivals and turns over entries to its own committee, which apparently rubber-stamps the bland and commercial art. It's not a festival, rather a traveling art mall with the same mainstream artists appearing again and again.

Each artist pays a fee to participate; at Las Olas it was $200. We propose that the promoter look for young and talented locals who deserve exposure and give them booths.

It's easy to see how the editors at the Sun-Sentinel value a free press over free enterprise, as long as it's not their enterprise that's being affected.

A recent editorial writer described unfortunate street people who panhandle on corners as "pathetic," "haggard," and "undesirable beggars" who only want money for their next "bottle of cheap wine." This was in support of a Palm Beach County attempt to discourage motorists from giving money to these "mendicants." (Nice use of the thesaurus.) The editorial adds that officials should stop short of passing an ordinance banning curbside solicitors.

We think all people soliciting on corners and walking out into traffic ought to be banned -- like the hundreds of street people who each day hawk the Sun-Sentinel in the middle of busy traffic lanes. Let's see an editorial-page writer use some name-calling on the very problem they created by starting their First Amendment-protected, traffic-dodging sales in the first place. Mendicants indeed.

Undercurrents wants to know about any and all political deals, media screwups, and particularly dumb memos from bureaucrats. Let us know. Call 954-233-1581, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail undercurrents@newtimesbpb.com.

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