Interview with Steve Slotin – Slotin Folk Fest

Slotin Folk Festival

Slotin Folk Festival 2010

How do you select exhibitors for Slotin Folk Fest?

Selecting exhibitors is a fun process. There are many highly reputable galleries representing self-taught art and they work hard to beat the bushes find and promote these wonderful artworks. Many of these folks have been the business for decades, long before the public ever thought this art was worth collecting…Marcia Weber Art Objects from Montgomery, AL, Duff Lindsay – Lindsay Gallery, Ginger Young Gallery, Marion Harris, Cotton Belt, Rising Fawn, Shelton Gallery, Main Street Gallery, Galarina Folk Arts, Le Primitif Galleries, Jeanine Taylor Folk Art, …they have been in the business long before we started Folk Fest and they really bring in the core of the self-taught masters. Each year we work to find something new and different that hasn’t been seen by the public that is the real deal…a surprising gem of self-taught art…Last year we debuted Mr. Ed Welch, a 90 year African Sign painter’s work and now there is a one-man show in the works at the prestigious Ricco-Maresca Gallery in New York.

Andrei Palmer Folk Artist

Casey McGlynn (right) from Minivan Gallery bought this car from Andrei Palmer (left) last year which is how Andrei got started!

This year, our new discovery came in the form of Andrei Palmer. Andrei and his family actually found us last year by coming to Folk Fest for a visit. Andrei, now a young man, was adopted from a Romanian orphanage as a child. He endured a great deal of abuse and neglect and among other things is diagnosed as autistic, but he creates the most amazing car models from very simple materials (cardboard, paint). He is an example of someone who is mentally isolated from the mainstream, yet is driven to create something that he finds fascinating. In an era where information is easily accessible through cable tv and the internet, it is more and more difficult to find “the real deal” out there…and I would say that Andrei definitely fits the bill. I did see quite a few major gallery owners visiting with Andrei over the weekend so I am quite sure we will be seeing more of Andrei’s work in the future.

When did you start SFF and what was your original intention for it?

Going way back, about 20 years ago, I was a traveling book salesman. My territory was GA and FL, so I was all over the small rural towns. One day I was eating lunch in Cleveland, GA at Smith’s Soda shop and saw some face jugs on the wall that really caught my eye. I asked the gentleman behind the counter about the jugs and he told me that the maker was Lanier Meaders, and he was right up the road. As a kid, I had actually spent every summer in Cleveland, GA at a summer camp and really prided myself in knowing all the best BBQ joints, the best swimming holes, the best bluegrass…everything that screamed “the South.” But I was really surprised that I knew nothing about this wonderful visual culture. These face jugs which were made in the very same in the 1990’s that they were made in the 1880’s, hand-dug GA red clay, mule driven pug mill, handmade tobacco spit glazeswood-fired kilns…they were so ugly, they were beautiful. It is amazing that in all the years I spent up there, that this was an entire element of Southern culture I had completely missed. The treasure was in my backyard, I had no idea.

I cancelled all my appointments for the day and went off to meet Mr. Meaders. Lanier was actually very sick with cancer and undergoing chemo, but invited me in and took a few hours to talk with me about his work and the jugs I had become so fascinated with. It was a very transformative day. From that moment on, I decide that I would seek out more of these potters and that lead to finding other self-taught painters, carvers, sculptors…so many with amazing, bizarre, interesting personal stories that really added to what I found so appealing about the art itself. So I spent more time in search of folk art and less time selling books…needless to say, I got fired. Not the best timing, as I was now unemployed and engaged to be married…

I couldn’t let go of this new obsession though. I thought that if I enjoyed discovering this visual culture, other folks would, too. I decided to go out on a limb and start a self-taught art show. The year was 1994 and we put the word out there hoping to attract a few dealers and get some folks through the door. So in very little time, we had 60 galleries signed up and on the opening weekend, 6,000 visitors came to see the treasure in their own backyard. Since then, the show has grown to 100 exhibitors and annually about 12,000 guests.

One Comment to “Interview with Steve Slotin – Slotin Folk Fest”

  1. Hello! I’m here from New Friend Friday’s….your blog looks very creative and interesting. Good job!!

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