Transitions, Part 1: Festival Noir, The 'Back Story'

This month marks a transition for one facet of my life/work which I haven't spent much time writing about here: Festival Noir. The 'back story' is that in 1992, when I was living in Boston, I was creating jewelry (semi-precious stone beads with handcrafted porcelain, and/or polymer clay pieces), and doing home parties, but not much else in the way of sales. A chance meeting with a woman who enjoyed jewelry and supporting the work of African American artists led to a lengthy discussion about how we could provide a showcase for artists whose work needed to be "out there" for the public to see and buy.

We often say that we went full speed ahead with Festival Noir (the name came to me in the shower one morning) because we didn't know any better. Our basic idea was to hold the show in a large, centrally located, well known Boston venue; make it free to the public; and to provide that showcase for artists, some of whom had never presented their work for sale. A tall order, especially since neither of us had ever produced such an event (or any other event, for that matter) before. We approached the largest downtown venue (a convention center) with our 1-page plan, and succeeded in securing a small conference room there for our first show.

On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, we had 16 artists, about 1,000 attendees, and a resounding success that first year: 1993. In subsequent years, we added artists, moved to larger rooms in the convention center (eventually filling a 4,000 sq. ft. space), and made Festival Noir a 2-day show after the 5th year. Our show became the gold standard of Afrocentric art shows in New England, and attracted artists from as far away as California. Since it was a juried show, artists who applied knew their work had to be of a certain quality to be accepted. And, customers came to expect high quality, hand crafted products; many returned again and again to participate in this holiday season tradition; to meet the new artists we included each year. At its height, Festival Noir boasted 36 artists and craftspeople, included nationally-known Black artists, and was written about in the Boston Globe.

So, what happened? Stay tuned for Transitions, Part 2: Festival Noir, The Decline