Artscape is coming up this weekend. We might even bother to go to it.
Don’t get us wrong: Artscape is a great and wonderful thing and our heart floweth over with civic pride and our city is truly lucky to have a premier arts event that generates tons of commerce and community and culture and blah blah blah. The problem is that when you go to Artscape it’s usually just not that great.
Our typical Artscape experience has always gone something like this: First you have to walk there because the entire central part of the city is gridlocked or closed all weekend long. It draws more than 100,000 people a day and anyone who lives between Downtown and 25th street dares not move their car for 3 days. Horns honk. People are mad. By the time you’re halfway there you realize it’s hot as hell outside. You get to the festival and are overwhelmed by crowds. Children scream and cry for no reason. Woo girls woo. People stare at phones and are oblivious to everything. Everyone is sweaty and gross.
You already want to get a cold beer or a lemonade or something because you could use some refreshment, so you wait in line for 10 minutes and pay $10 for a Miller Lite or a Bacardi and Coke or whatever the festival booze sponsor is. Then you spend 10 minutes looking for a map or schedule to see what’s where and who’s when. Once you find it you realize that the most interesting things either just happened while you were buying beer or won’t happen for 7 more hours.
So you walk around aimlessly and see what there is to see. Craft junk. Yarn bombs. Watercolors of beach scenes. Tacky Afrocentric stuff. Someone doing caricatures. You’re not impressed so you think you might get some lunch, but with all the traffic and congestion you realize that restaurants are out and nachos and fried dough or whatever are your only real option. So you get nachos and fried dough and think you’ll go get a good spot for one of the slightly-better-than-mediocre musical headliners and eat on the hill, but everyone else had the same idea and you can’t see the stage very well and you say fuck it I’m hot and tired and you walk home.
It’s not that Artscape is bad. It’s that it’s overrated. People esteem it very highly and its marketing is fairly grandiose and it would be hard for any event to be in real life what Artscape is on paper. It’s why people come back from Disney World and say “Well, at least the kids enjoyed it.” or why people watch the Olympics and say “Well, there isn’t much else on I guess.”
The older we get and the more we move through the world, the more we seek to identify and avoid overrated things. “Prime” baseball games, very fancy restaurants, bands on reunion tours… they’re all good things, but not as good as they’re made out to be, and not worth the trouble they take.