Goodbye, Columbus

I recently made the difficult decision to withdraw from the Columbus Arts festival. The picture below, from last year, should say it all.  But if you want further reasons, here’s what I wrote to the new director:

It is with great disappointment that I must withdraw from the 2012 Columbus Arts Festival.

When I applied this year, it was with the assurance of last year’s director that, after the 2011 disaster, none of the artists would be placed on the bridges over the river when the show relocated to the riverfront park. Unfortunately, that promise has not been honored. I had hoped that, given time, you would rethink your decision, but that does not seem to be the case.  I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching over this.  Even if I was one of the lucky ones to obtain a space on solid ground, I  would be devastated if another storm hit and my compatriots on the bridges took a direct hit while I escaped damage.

I know you must think I’m being a total wimp about this.  And I realize that the odds of another microburst hitting the festival are small.  But you weren’t there last year.  You didn’t hear the thunder, the screams, the crashing of glass and pottery, the tears afterwards.  You didn’t feel yourself lifted off the ground while your tent (with 200+ pounds of weight) threatened to become a 10′ by 10′ kite.  You didn’t look down at the ankle deep water and realize that no one had thought to shut off the power to the tents, risking electrocution to everyone.  And the only reason that the damage wasn’t worse is that the majority of the booths received some shelter from the wind from the neighboring buildings.  On those bridges, there is nothing to block the wind for miles.

I realize that you have a romantic notion of artists leaning their paintings against the railings of the bridges over the Seine.  Those artists can grab their paintings and run for cover if a storm hits.  They’re not there overnight, either, and they’re not standing in giant kites.  And it’s undeniable that the incidents of severe weather have been increasing over the last several years.  I hope and pray that nothing like that happens at the Columbus Arts Festival this year–or any year in the future.  But you’re playing Russian roulette with people’s livelihoods–and lives–and I don’t care to risk it for the chance of making a few dollars.

Of course, if you change your mind, I’d be happy to re-apply next year.  That is, if I haven’t just burned all my bridges.  Ooh, don’t say bridges…

So sorry, Columbus. I’m sure the weather will be beautiful, and the park will be lovely. I’m sure you all think I’m a big weenie.  According to the new director, only three artists requested spots off the bridge, so I’m sure he thinks I’m a weenie AND an idiot.  That’s OK. This is one case in which I REALLY don’t want to have the last laugh. Best of luck, Columbus.

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April 2012

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