20,000 turn out for Bayou Art Festival

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Just 20 minutes into the Bayou Art Festival Sunday, the Memorial Park picnic ground is alive with attendees drifting tent to tent, talking to artists and admiring displays.

Among the tinkle of glass wind chimes and chatter of passerby, Paul S. Namkung sits in a tent and plays a steady rhythm on his signature piece – a Big Butt drum.

Despite not having a strong musical background, Namkung said he was inspired to create the drum, which also doubles as a stool, when he saw a man tapping a song on an orange crate 24 years ago. Namkung said he spent two years perfecting the model’s materials to achieve the perfect pitch.

“You can’t just get a box and put a hole in it,” he said. “I was fascinated with the idea that you could sit on something and make music out of it.”

The New Mexico-based artist was among 300 exhibiting their work at this spring’s Art Colony Association-produced Art Fest. Every artist featured was chosen by a panel of prominent peers, executive director Bridget Henderson said.

The Bayou City Art Festival began as the Westheimer Art Festival in 1971 and grew to feature two annual events – the Memorial Park event in the spring and a fall festival in downtown. Proceeds from sponsorships and admissions – to the tune of $3.5 million in the festival’s 46-year history – benefit several arts non-profits in the city, but all of the artist’s revenue is returned to them directly, Henderson said.

Many of the artists featured are regulars, but the festival also works to nurture rising talent.

Just off the main path, Houston-based hobby photographer Patric Sleightholm showcases his nature photographs from Canada, New Zealand and Tasmania.

“I’m a traveler first, photographer second,” Sleightholm said. “It’s my first art show, I did it for fun and to see what would happen.”

Henderson said around 20,000 people were expected over Saturday and Sunday.

The festival is a perfect outdoor event before the sweltering summer months take hold in Houston, attendee Nancy Ryan said. As her 5-year-old son played nearby, Ryan eyed unusual art for their new home.

“I like the selection here,” Ryan, who prefers ultrachrome photographs and bottle cap art, said. “If I’m able to get a really good, one of a kind piece it’s really exciting for me.”

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