A Window into America's Past
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 Fair."

Granted, the official name or the event is indeed the "St. James Court Art Show," 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)

Henry III 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. 

Compare a 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 country!

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  St James Court Art Show Official Web Site


More stuff:

St James Court Introduction Page

Old Louisville Guide Home

Also see http://stjamescourtartshow.com/ for exhibitor information, show map and a parking map

Pictures of the 2000 Art Show:  Thursday Oct 5, setting up
Friday Oct 6, Day 1 
Saturday Oct 7, Day 2
Pictures of the 1999 Art Show   page 1  page 2

Click for Art Show Official Web Site

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Old Louisville National Historic District

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