Park Hill Art Festival Founder Reflects On A Turbulent Year
A year ago, as the world was going on lockdown and the world filled of uncertainty, Darren Skanson sent a note to rally his fellow artist friends.
“Fight this chaos with hope and beauty,” he wrote. “It is our calling to be hopeful. We are the reminders of what mankind can be. We are the reminders that the world has beauty.”
Skanson is the founder and organizer of the Park Hill Art Festival, held on the grounds of the Park Hill Masonic Lodge at Montview and Eudora. The event was cancelled last spring, but Skanson moved ahead with the festival in August. During a time most public events were still on hold, Skanson followed city and state guidelines for safe gatherings — socially distanced booths, required masks, temperature checks at the entrance, crowd control, and plenty of strategically-placed hand sanitizer. There were fewer art booths than usual — 50 versus 80 in previous years. Still, the turnout was tremendous.
“The public was very appreciative, cooperative and hungry for an activity,” Skanson says. “Especially one that was outside, which is the safest place to be.”
This spring’s event is on track for June 5 and 6, with the number of participating artists back up to around 80. Skanson took a few minutes to describe what to expect, and reflect on the challenges of the past year.
Greater Park Hill News: How many returning artists will there be? What will be new this year?
Darren Skanson: Using extra outside space granted by Park Hill Masonic Lodge, this year we will be back to around 80 artists. I must say that I am overwhelmed by the quality of the work, including many artists that have never been to the Park Hill show before. New artists include the incredible photography of Randall Koepsell, nationally recognized oil painter David Harms, Fort Collins drawing artist Nha Vuu, and California artist Paul Nzalamba showing his colorful West African work. But there will also be woodwork, jewelry, metal work, ceramics, sculpture, and much more. Also fiber artist Autumn Tenyl. Autumn is a designer of wearable fashion/art. She will have a full double booth of her amazing creations for women.
GPHN: What was the most challenging hurdle for you, business-wise, over the past year?
DS: The realization that for my whole life I have been in the business of bringing people together. To have that singular skill be the one thing that was most undesirable in the pandemic was so hard to fathom.
GPHN: What is the main thing you are looking forward to, as the world returns to more of a normal state of being?
DS: I am so grateful that we have a handle on our situation so that people can start fulfilling one of the most human of needs, being together.
— Cara DeGette