A few weeks ago, the Havre de Grace Art Show celebrated its 50th annual incarnation, and this weekend the Bel Festival of the Arts will mark its 48th year.
The two events are evidence of the enduring practicality of art in everyday life.
It is easy to be critical of events like the two shows. Certainly the Million Dollar Mile aspect of the Havre de Grace show, which sought to showcase world class fine art in the city half a century ago, has faded as folk art and crafts have taken center stage. Similarly, the Bel Air show this weekend is likely to be heavy on crafts, ornaments and jewelry even as it is light on high-end paintings and sculptures.
While both Harford shows have important fine arts components, highbrow trends aren't necessarily the point of community art shows, or art in general, for that matter.
Many famed composers of the European royal court music tradition, for example, by the time the late 1800s and early 1900s rolled around, were becoming ever impressed with the popular music of the day, that being the jazz that was coming out of the American South. Though the traditions associated with Vienna in the 1700s and 1800s and the early jazz traditions are studied these days with comparable reverence, in the time of Brahms, Debussy and Ravel, jazz was regarded as second rate.
Similarly, the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok, who worked during the early 1900s, had a rather notorious taste for the folk music of his native culture, an indulgence not necessarily regarded by his peers as healthy for a serious musician.
In other words, the utilitarian crafts of one generation can easily be appreciated as fine arts a generation or two later.
Who knows? Maybe the seemingly utilitarian crafts on display this weekend in Bel Air will end up as the museum pieces of the future. Or, maybe they'll just be fun to look at and enjoy while they last. Either way, the pleasant diversions offered by art – in its many forms – are part of what makes it nice to be alive.