The vernissage for Jessica Lange and her photographs was posh-perfect

Consider this artistic assignment: grab a box of coloring crayons along with a map of the southern Rhone region and color in concentric circles around each town that hosts a summer festival, choosing a different color for each category of festival.

You will come up with a salade mixte of colored circles around Aix for lyrical arts, Arles for photography, Avignon for theatre, Orange for opera, Lacoste for a variety of performances, and La Roque d’Anthéron along with a bunch of scattered dots for the International Piano Festival.

It’s a plain fact that Ap’Art Festival launched last year fills up a lacune on the map with a distinctive color for contemporary art. Fanning out from Saint-Remy-de-Provence, the festival encompasses the near-by towns of Les Baux-de-Provence, Eygalières, Orgon, Mausanne-les-Alpilles, Saint-Etienne-du-Grès and Tarascon. And unlike the other festivals, there are no admission prices to enliven one senses by viewing the works of over fifty artists.

The ‘1st annual’ of anything can be a slippery slope. Leila Voight, the founder and director of Ap’Art, was able to navigate the choppy seas of having to plan every exhibition from scratch, as well as deal with budget limitations, to arrive at a first-class event and publish a stunning post-festival catalogue. The good news is that Ap’Art will have a more stable and more substantial funding base to work with in 2011.

Ap’Art distinguishes itself by celebrating “open air art” with venues in parks, town squares, estates, courtyards, and wineries, as well as displaying paintings and

Murals by Michael De Feo in Tarascon

photographs in historical landmarks, hotels and local galleries. The giddy excitement of the festival was captured on t-shirts and posters by marrying the Ap’Art logo with the flowers of American street artist Michael De Feo.

Perhaps more important, though, Ap’Art provides a periscope for viewing the cutting-edge of contemporary art. Some presentations at this year’s festival illustrated yet-to-be-approved, breathtaking open space projects, such as Christo’s “Over the River” on the Arkansas river in Colorado and Miguel Chevalier’s “Flying Rugs” envisioned for Marrakech, Morocco.

One challenge for the festival organizers will be to enhance the festival as a marketing platform for artists by expanding the commercial aspect, in other words attracting art buyers and collectors from beyond the festival’s borders. There is also upside potential to expand the funding base by securing corporate sponsors and participation by major galleries.

Festival Founder Leila Voight (ctr) celebrates at closing ceremony with American street art movement's "Flower Guy" Michael De Feo (far right)

The Ap’Art Festival will run from July 7 through August 17, 2011. The six-week program of exhibitions, events and artists will be announced in the early spring.


Festival AP’ART: www.festival-apart.org/

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