by

June 7, 2012

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For Riverbend’s partisans, surely it doesn’t matter what the original idea was or what’s being played out now in a “theater of power,” whatever that is. But the question of whether Riverbend is good for Chattanooga—not whether it used to be—is hard for thoughtful people to ignore.

“I think Riverbend is no longer a positive model of festival. What Riverbend does is almost unheard of in any city. It’s a black hole that sucks up energy and keeps people away from downtown.”

It’s fascinating that in 2012, a year of continuing economic difficulties for the arts, two new festivals do exactly what Hetzler suggests. HATCH in April and the New Dischord Festival (coming up on June 14-17) put a variety of exhibits, performances and participatory events in venues all over downtown. Also during Riverbend the Chattanooga Writers Guild is presenting three performing authors at the Public Library on Tuesday, June 12.

Could this be the slow, grassroots birth of a Fringe Festival during Riverbend?

“Two Town Festivals: Signs of a Theater of Power” is available in Chattanooga at Winder Binder or from Amazon.

by

June 7, 2012

Comments (3)

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Application beyond Riverbend

Since openness and diversity are good, obviously we should privatize Social Security and the public schools instead of trying to force everyone into one-size-fits-all systems like the current Riverbend.

(A minor idea to loosen Riverbend slightly: let people bring their own food and drinks, paying an entrance fee on what they bring.
And: try open gates one night, or a reasonable fee. And, unofficially, as Winder Binders is doing?, run an "off Riverbend" collection of events during Riverbend, mostly in the area near the festival. FWIW.)

Andrew Lohr more than 1 years ago

New book on Riverbend, Two Town Festivals

Rich Bailey's sharply focused editorial on my new book, "Two Town Festivals: Signs of a Theater of Power," hits the several nails of this complex work dead on the head in raising basic questions about the closed, fenced Riverbend Festival's value today to a newly revitalized downtown Chattanooga.

I very much admire his meeting the challenge of finding much of the essence of my 299 pages of what really is several books in one: the director's broad foreword with a brief author's note, the relatively brief 1990 thesis (online since 1996) with endnotes, two appendices of Chattanooga and Charleston's vivid stories of origin from the 1980s, and my 45-page afterword about the impact of the thesis ideas on my NW GA Split Tree Farm music and dance programs from 1990-2007.

Only one special idea was not emphasized in the article, and that is the fundamental value of hearing and seeing and feeling the power of all local artists, celebrating what the Charleston mayor long has called "art power." In this way festivals can be "theaters of power," or for theaters for the powerful, in framing private civic agendas. Under new leadership and qualified artistic direction, I can see an open Riverbend opening all its gates, spreading into all new and old venues and lively restaurants in the downtown, generating many thousands of "city walkers" as vital pedestrian traffic and at long last enhancing restaurant profits--a true "celebration of togetherness" as I originally called our fledging project in May 1981. And it can strengthen the fine new grass roots festivals, such as HATCH and New Dischord, and animate all the budding downtown areas from southside to northside to eastside, as happened in the early 80s.

I regret seeing the Bessie Smith Strut fenced in but wish it well as the last fragment of the open festival we started in 1982. I hope to see many friends there Monday night (or late afternoon now?). The book is now on Amazon and also Kindle and for sale at Winder Binder on Frazier between the bridges. I may bring some copies Monday night to share.

I thank my original three Friends of the Festival colleagues, Mickey Robbins, Deane and Nelson Irvine, and supporters such as Sally and Sam Robinson, for the volunteer energy that sustained the early organizing efforts, and the boards of directors that kept the dream of a world-class Chattanooga festival alive. It will happen when our dramatic place, artistic idea and professional direction reach critical mass with informed city leadership and create a summer-long town festival beyond our imagining today. Visit Edinburgh in August; you'll feel the magic and experience true diversity.

Sid Hetzler more than 1 years ago

ich Bailey's editorial on Hetzler's Festival Book

Rich Bailey's sharply focused editorial on my new book, "Two Town Festivals: Signs of a Theater of Power," hits the several nails of this complex work dead on the head in raising basic questions about the closed, fenced Riverbend Festival's value today to a newly revitalized downtown Chattanooga. I very much admire his meeting the challenge of finding much of the essence of my 299 pages of what really is several books in one: the director's erudite foreword with a brief author's note, the relatively brief 1990 thesis (online since 1996) with endnotes, two appendices of Chattanooga and Charleston's vivid stories of origin from the 1980s, and Hetzler 45-page afterword about the impact of the thesis ideas about diversity versus intolerant "theaters of power" on his Split Tree Farm music and dance programs from 1990-2007. I regret seeing the Bessie Smith Strut fenced in but wish it well as the last fragment of the open festival we started in 1982. I hope to see many friends there Monday night (or late afternoon now?). I would only add to Rich's crisp thoughts that I hope the book proves helpful to our civic leaders, politicians, patrons, festival directors and educators whose steady efforts are bringing positive attention at long last to Chattanooga, or at least since the post-civil war era. Only one special idea was not emphasized in the article, and that is the fundamental value of hearing and seeing and feeling the power of all local artists, celebrating what the Charleston mayor long has called "art power." I can see the Riverbend opening all its gates, spreading into all new venues and lively restaurants in the downtown, generating many thousands of "city walkers" as vital pedestrian traffic and at long last enhancing restaurant profits--a true "celebration of togetherness" as I originally called our fledging project in May 1981. The book is now on Amazon and also Kindle and for sale at Winder Binder on Frazier between the bridges. I may bring some copies Monday night to share. And let me thank my original three Friends of the Festival colleagues, Mickey Robbins, Deane and Nelson Irvine, and supporters such as Sally and Sam Robinson, for the volunteer energy that sustained the early organizing efforts, and the boards of directors that kept the dream of a world-class Chattanooga festival alive. It will happen when the dramatic place, artistic idea and force of professional talent reach critical mass with informed city leadership with a summer-long town festival beyond our imagining today. Visit Edinburgh; you'll know then.

Sid Hetzler more than 1 years ago

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