Gregory Story is the unofficial ambassador of the Main St. Fort Worth Arts Festival. He travels the arts fair circuit going to at least 20 festivals a year, and at each one he talks up the glories of Main St.
Not that the event, celebrating its 25th year, needs his proselytizing. It is rated the best arts festival in Texas and the third largest in the country by the Art Fair Source Book. Acceptance, though, is limited, and artists often quit trying if they have applied once and not been invited.
"It's like a knife in the chest if you're not chosen," Story says -- and he knows.
The Fort Worth resident has been rejected by the festival as often as he has been accepted. Story is three for six.
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He encourages friends not to give up. Each year, there is a new jury, so every year is a new opportunity. And every year he, like all the others who have been allotted a booth in the past, anxiously waits to hear who has been accepted. Just because they've been accepted once, twice or a dozen times, doesn't mean that they will be invited back.
Story, 44, gave up a day job at the Arlington Museum of Art to follow the warm-weather cycle of the art fair circuit, selling ceramics, six years ago. Winters, the shows are in Florida; early spring, they are in Texas. As the days warm, the festivals spread north. He goes as far north as Chicago and then heads west to Denver.
Next week, when Main St. opens Thursday, his role as ambassador will ramp up. As the hometown artist, he will be "driving the bus," he says. That's the art-show term for the local guy who is expected to know where the inexpensive motels are, where to get a good meal and the location of the closest hardware store.
Story says he will treat some of his out-of-town friends to dinner during the show. "If I've had a really good day we'll go to Grace, if it's only an OK day, we'll go to City Diner," he says.
For those who hang around after the festival, he'll take them to "Benito's for Tex-Mex or the Railhead for barbecue."
April 10, he plans to drive the bus to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, for the Modern 'til Midnight event. This will be a treat, because visiting artists rarely get to see museums in the host city. They are working the festivals during museum hours and, on Mondays, when they pack up to leave and have a bit of time, museums usually are closed.
The ambassador's residence will be open to friends, "six inside and a couple outside in their vans. I can offer them coffee, toilet paper and we'll carpool into town," he says.
During the days of Main St., Story will be playing booth host, too. "I love being out there, and I love talking to people almost as much as I like being alone in the studio working."
When he is being the public person, he imagines himself at a party, mixing drinks and entertaining guests. "I always hope they have a good time visiting my booth," he says, speaking like a true diplomat.
Some of Story's closest art-festival friends will be participating in Main St. for the first time; others are working in new media or with new methods. Stop by their booths and make them feel welcome.
Jim C. Brown lives in Vancouver. He has never been to Main St. or to Texas, and it took some strong-arming to get him to come, says Story. His highly processed digital images of trees on plaster almost look like the fossilized record of some perfect forest. Booth 512.
Audrey Heller stages photographs of tiny people in a gargantuan world. Her photographs are whimsical but also paint a wonderful narrative tale. Booth 518.
Lisa Burge makes nonrepresentational monoprints manipulating oil paint on Plexiglas, then applies a sheet of paper to the glass and runs it through a press. Booth 429.
Chris Dahlquist, another of Story's close festival friends, will be showing a new body of work. She used to use Polaroid film, but Polaroid announced in 2008 that it would no longer produce the instant-processing film and Dahlquist had to reinvent her work. Now she takes digital photographs of landscapes and applies them to painted steel. Booth 505
Gaile Robinson is the Star-Telegram art and design critic, 817-390-7113