South End Art Hop

Every Autumn in Burlington, VT plays host to a weekend-long neighborhood art festival. The South End Art Hop began in 1992 on the Pine Street corridor just south of downtown, an area designated as the South End Arts District, as a weekend of open art studios, galleries, exhibitions and performances. New sculptures and installations are assembled over several blocks in preparation for the event every year, and for those blocks the streets are closed to traffic on opening night, pedestrians and performers only for the event attended by thousands of locals and out-of-state visitors every year.

My take? After years of Art Hoppery? There are positive and negative aspects…

The Negative:

As an artist, the Art Hop fees have gotten too expensive for what you get in return. It just doesn’t make sense to spend 75 bucks to hang five paintings in some office hallway for a month. Yes, they charge the artists money to support Art Hop, then will take a 40% commission on top of that if you sell any artwork. But that’s not too much of a worry, as the majority of attendees have no intention of buying your artwork. They’re mostly here for the party, the bars and the food trucks. That’s pretty much standard fare with these sort of events after awhile, we’ve all seen it. So as with many events of this sort, the polish has definitely worn off this penny, but I wouldn’t say that it’s “over” quite yet…

The Positive:

Every year there seems to be new art venues opening and existing outlets are improving. This once-small-time local festival has given a forum to artists in this area, and the neighborhood is thriving as a result. This neighborhood, in the 80’s and early-90’s, was a bit of a post-industrial blight. Polluted soil and waterways from decades of misuse, empty warehouses and poorly-maintained housing made this area pretty shady back when I first moved here and lived on Pine Street, walking a half-hour walk from downtown after work late at night. Now the neighborhood has come into its own, partially as a result of the rapid growth and gentrification of Burlington over the past two decades, but the area’s art community can also take some credit.

They should. After all, they’re the ones who paid for it, right?

As much as I can feel jaded about the whole thing after so many years, the work I see hanging still impresses me. Artists are still bringing their A game, and I always see something that will inspire a future artwork of my own. Also, a bonus: With all the hipsters at the bars and food trucks, the galleries themselves feel so much less crowded!