Words by Emily Taylor | Photography by Shad Ramsey Photography
Behind the scenes of the Harvest Moon Festival and the growth of Granbury as a cultural arts destination.
A well-known proverb states that it takes a village to raise a child; so, what does it take to “raise” the culture of a town? Thomas Wolfe offers the insight, “Culture is the arts elevated to a set of beliefs.” Gandhi’s thoughts are also en- lightening: “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.”
When it comes to Granbury, it is wonderfully evident that its culture can be attributed to the elevation of the arts in the “hearts and soul of its people”. A prominent example is the Harvest Moon Festival of the Arts which has become a staple of the town’s annual attractions, celebrating its 41st anniversary this year. The Historic Granbury Merchants Association (HGMA) founded the festival in 1978 as a means of promoting local artists as well as generating income through its booth rentals. This year, the HGMA is working in conjunction with the Granbury Arts Alliance to hold the festival.
Occurring the third weekend of October on the Historic Square of Granbury, the festival, free and open to the public, is a widely anticipated event presenting original works of over 100 artists and craftspeople from not only the region but around the country, some of whom are nationally recognized. Primarily a visual arts event, there is much to delight the eye and the soul: fine art, contemporary works, sculpture, glass work, and hand-crafted jewelry just to name a few. Visitors can enjoy the gallery booths as well as live music and many food options. This year’s festival will feature a new and expanded children’s creation area, having experienced great success last year.
The artwork is subject to various criteria for each category. All items must be original and handmade. At the beginning of the event on Saturday, each booth of displayed pieces will be considered by a jury of arts professionals, who determine the recipients of over $3,000 worth of cash and awards given away the following day.
The festival has undergone tremendous changes over the last decade. From the beginning, it has been a juried show. However, in the early 2000s, it began to
digress from an exclusively handmade event to include more “market-produced” items and less hand-produced artwork.
Local artist Elise Techentine experienced this shift in focus first-hand when she became the committee chair in 2014. She confirms that this allowance compromised the integrity of the festival, thereby inhibiting the artisan’s ability to sell their work: “It undermines the maker’s efforts and does not bring art buyers and eventually leads to failing to support the very thing it was built to do.”
During her years on the committee, Techentine committed to rebuilding the framework to restore the festival to its original purpose of “remaining faithful to the artists and makers it is intending to promote and support!” She maintains that the proper functioning of the jury at the arts festival ensures that the interests of the artists are protected and this mission is preserved. Through the diligent efforts of the festival committee, it was returned to its original format much to their satisfaction and the mutual benefit of the participants.
[Cynthia James] is passionate about the education and enrichment in the arts brought to Granbury by the festival as well as the productions of other arts organizations, such as the Lake Granbury Art Association, the Opera House, and the Langdon Center for the Arts.
Techentine’s successor, Cynthia James, also a local artist and businesswoman, has chaired the event for the past three years and continues to grow the festival. She is passionate about the education and enrichment in the arts brought to Granbury by the festival as well as the productions of other arts organizations, such as the Lake Granbury Art Association, the Opera House, and the Langdon Center for the Arts.
The Lake Granbury Art Association hosts meetings, workshops, shows, and events that feature various artists and encourage enthusiasts to cultivate their craft. The Opera House draws arts patrons from around the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Home to the Granbury Theatre Company, it produces 8-10 exemplary productions per year. The Langdon Center for the Arts hosts monthly exhibitions from local, regional, and national artists in a variety of mediums.
The collaboration of these groups along with support from the city tourism board, the city council and local businesses, has been influential in making Granbury a cultural arts destination. Furthermore, their collective efforts in fundraising for the festival have been essential to its success.
On a more individual level, James explains that the goal of making Granbury a cultural arts destination is for the “betterment, education, and enrichment of the community.”
James confirms that the Harvest Moon Festival has been integral to creating and sustaining the culture of Granbury in various ways. She states that a major factor in the festival’s positive reception in the community is its “intimate, ‘small-town’ feeling”. On a large scale, the festival serves the town by increasing business for local shops, galleries, restaurants, hotels, etc. through the numerous visitors it attracts.
On a more individual level, James explains that the goal of making Granbury a cultural arts destination is for the “betterment, education, and enrichment of the community. We are working to increase education in the arts; not only the visual arts, but theatre, culinary, the written word, etc.” The festival is one of many examples in the arts community of Granbury that nurtures the human spirit and produces a ripple effect among those who experience it. It is very important to James that the town’s artistic endeavors produce a community full of well-rounded people who pursue “fitness” not only in the physical sense, but also through engaging in
various forms of art.
The event facilitates artists’ efforts to promote the arts as a whole, thereby conveying the enrichment it brings to their own lives and providing a platform to communicate their interpretation of the world around them. By creating a venue for them to show and sell their work, an arts festival unites people in the celebration of diverse artistic visions, regardless of how one might specifically define art. In particular, the children’s creation plaza supports arts education among youth. The hands-on, interactive experience includes opportunities for arts, crafts, theatre, and dance, including the whole family in the festivities.
The festival also provides personal and professional benefits to the artists. It fosters connections with other artists as well as people who may become long-term customers because of their exposure to the artists and their work. Moreover, it allows artists to share their cre- ative process with each other and the visitors, thereby cultivating understanding and empathy. Art is a fluid
concept that requires open-mindedness in its study as those who engage it must allow for an interpretation and manifestation of an idea that may not necessarily be identical to their own. It is essential that conversation of the ideas and concepts behind the creative process flows easily for the culture to flourish.
The freedom of expression inherent in art allows individuals to grow personally and then impact others for good. Should this not be the root motivation among those passionate about their town, i.e. culture? Such passion is definitely exemplified in the dedicated people working behind the scenes of the town’s artistic community, continually striving to build the local art scene and expand its impact on those who encounter it.
As Granbury prepares for the next Harvest Moon Festival, those planning to participate with their artwork or simply to attend can be confident that they are supporting not only the growth and success of the artistic community, but also contributing to the positive future of their beloved town.
Local Sara Miskovic,
owner of The Panhandle on the Square