St. James Court
Art Show or Art Fair?
...or maybe both
"Can you make sure that when the
show's name is in print that it reads
'St. James Court Art Show' and not 'fair'?"
The line above
was returned to OldLouisville.com from a high official of the Art
Show Consortium after a forwarded email inquiry concerning the "St.
James Art Fair." It may be small potatoes, but it seems
the Art Show coordinators have become fairly fanatic in trying to
eliminate all references to the event as the "St James Court Art
official name or the event is indeed the "St. James Court Art
but this webmaster, having lived in Old Louisville for
over two decades has noted that most Old Louisville residents still
refer to it as the "Art Fair." Only recently, at neighborhood
meetings and the like, do we often hear speakers correct themselves
in mid sentence in deference to this new point of political
correctness when they make the inevitable slip of the tongue.
So what's the
big deal? All that most people are doing is calling the thing
by what it is. A fair. And a fair in the best
traditions of some of the great fairs of old.
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
For once she was a true love of mine
(medieval English canticle interpreted in glass at the St James
Court Art Show)
established a fair at Scarborough by charter in 1235 and
it was held in the town for five and a half centuries. The town is
now mainly remembered in the famous song.
The tradition of
periodic centralized gatherings for the purpose of exhibiting,
selling and exchanging wares, ideas and techniques, attended by throngs
from far and wide, goes back at least to the days of pharaoh's Egypt.
Fairs were held in the holiest places usually in conjunction with
religious festivals, a tradition the ancient Greeks continued.
They even held a fair in during the Olympic Games.
Medieval fair in France with St James Court 2005
In the Middle Ages,
as instituted by the early Frankish
dynasty, fairs could be
legally established by the king alone, authorized by royal edict. Thus, having a fair was a great
and much-prized privilege for a
city or locale. The capitularies of
Charlemagne contain a clause forbidding markets of any kind, except
such as might be authorized by prescription of the monarch or his
ministers. This was pretty much the case all over Europe until
the end of the 18th Century. A description of 1327 reads that
stalls were provided "opening on a square or street, containing a
table with a cover, a bench, and scales." Pretty much like the
booths at the current Art Show. Besides exhibitors, fairs were
accompanied by various other entertainments such as music, dancing,
theatrics and demonstrations. We
see those at the St. James Court Art Show, too. And then there is "fair food,"
...such as the quintessential 'all-American' hot dog...which had its
origins in the prestigious medieval fairs of Frankfurt, where the
little frankfurter was known far and wide for its delicious flavor
and it's ability to keep for a long time without spoiling.
Fair-goers packed plenty for the long journeys home.
The 19th and early 20th Century was
the era of the finest fairs in history. The great expos of
London and Paris were matched and often surpassed by the great fairs
of America, such as the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.
But even closer to home (impressively, in this case) was an
important fair known as the Southern Exposition of 1884-1887
right here in Louisville...on the exact site of today's St. James
Court Art "Show." ...How fitting that once a year the historic
location of those old corridors and grounds come to life as the
venue for the best outdoor Art
Fair Show in the
So if you want to call it the St.
James Court Art Fair, you will hear no objection from
OldLouisville.com. And Art
show organizers, please don't get bent out of shape when someone
slips and says "St. James Court Art Fair" instead of "Art Show."
We've been messing it up that way (or not) for decades, and it's not
done anyone any harm. We're all proud of it by any name we
want to call it!
Click here for the
Court Art Show
Official Web Site
James Court Introduction Page
Louisville Guide Home
map and a
of the 2000 Art Show:
Thursday Oct 5, setting up
Friday Oct 6, Day 1
Oct 7, Day 2
of the 1999 Art Show
Official Web Site