Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts: A Review

This past weekend my husband and I took in the Lake Oswego Festival of Arts. I’d like to say it was a wonderful experience, alas, it was not. By the time we actually got to the festival we were hot and frustrated. This was the 47th year for the festival, so I felt a lot of the problems with the show should have already been worked out.

Parking, Grade F. Parking for the festival is miserable there is virtually no parking close to the festival, which we expected. Unfortunately the signage for the shuttles was inadequate to say the least. There were directional signs coming into Lake Oswego for the shuttle, but once you were in town, they abruptly stopped. My husband pointed out that it was like they were all enthusiastic putting them up, but got into town and said “screw it, I’m tired”. I went back and checked their website, yes there was information about the various shuttles, but it was not obvious at all. Which is why I kept missing it on the website. We also stopped to talk to a festival “helper” about where we needed to go… he might has well been speaking Swahili. We spent an hour trying to find a place to park and catch a shuttle. Not a good start.

Location, Grade D. The location is down in a baseball field. Notice the word DOWN. Not at all convenient for anyone with a handicap. There was a handicap drop off point, but still quite a hike down to the field. So accessibility was poor to say the least. My father (who walks slowly, but doesn’t need a wheelchair) would have had a very hard time making it to the field.

There was also no signage for where to enter the park. The only obvious place involved climbing down bleacher stairs into the fields. Being that it was on a baseball field, it was hot and miserable. There was very little shade. Sorry folks this is the Pacific Northwest where parks with trees abound. It might be convenient to the downtown Lake Oswego area, but it is a miserable location.

Artists, Grade B. A variety of artists were at the festival. From jewelers to painters. The usual mix of so-so stuff to really nice pieces were available. Also a nice variety in prices for a lot of booths. I like to see artists provide affordable original art. Most of the booths I checked out had originals from $100 and up. Great for those of us who can’t afford to drop $1500.00 for a painting. Most of the artists I talked to were very congenial and willing to talk to you about their work. Unfortunately there is always one or two in the crowd who aren’t.

Open Show, Grade B. The real action was at the open show tent. The Open Show would have gotten an A, but there was little signage pointing you to the tent. My husband and I just happened upon it on the way back to the shuttle stop. The festival features an open show where you can drop off pieces for judging,  exhibition, and sale. As with most open shows the art ranged from “you’ve got to be kidding” to “fantastic”. I was very impressed but a great deal of the art presented. The most amazing piece I saw was a colored pencil portrait painting, I can’t remember if the artist won anything, but she definitely deserved to. Alas, no photography allowed, so I can’t post any of the wonderful things we saw. I definitely would have bought a piece, but the ones I loved were already snatched up…darn!

The Open Show also features student art work from Lake Oswego High School. They had their own corner in the tent. There are some  fantastic artist emerging from the school. The music students also provided the entertainment in the Open Show Tent. A great chance for both artists and musicians to get exposure.

This was the second arts festival that my husband and I attended in the south-Portland suburbs. I’m not sure we will be back. Both were miserable in terms of heat, and Portland is not known for extreme heat. It actually wasn’t miserably hot on Saturday, probably high 70s to 80. But the location made it seem much hotter. And I am amazed that with all the parks in the Portland-metro area (with trees) that the arts festivals keep landing in playing fields. Layout might be easier in treeless areas, but makes your attendees miserable.

The signage was just plain awful on both occasions. Festival planners need to keep in mind that not everyone has access to the internet. Or that they may just happen upon the festival. Good signage is critical. Don’t frustrate your attendees from the get-go.


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