There are really just three basic ingredients needed to produce a popular regional arts festival, according to Barry Schlecker: good food, good art and good music.
And of course, a good coordinator to pull the pieces together.
Since 2010, Schlecker, founder of Barry's Events, has produced the successful Brandywine Festival of the Arts, a fall staple since 1961 that features more than 200 artists and crafters. Vendors pay roughly $400 to show their creations to a crowd of 5,000 to 8,000 people over a two-day period in early September. The event is held in the Josephine Gardens of Wilmington's Brandywine Park.
The rules are simple, according to Schlecker. The artist has to be there, and the work has to be original or one-of-a kind.
That no-nonsense approach has suited Delaware native Schlecker well. He had already spent 45 years in the employment/personnel business, then parlayed his knack for making connections into the events sector - organizing northern Delaware events like the New Castle County Ice Cream Festival at Rockwood Park, the Hockessin Fourth of July celebration, and A Taste of the Holidays event in December.
The arts festival was a natural step for Schlecker, a longtime collector of art from outsider, or untrained, artists.
"Over the years I "˜ve learned to really respect people trying to make a living as an artist. It's something they're just good at.
I realize that trying to be an artist is pretty heroic or pretty stupid, or a combination of both," said Schlecker.
Shlecker has also put on his own stamps on the event, adding local music, area food vendors, even a children's area, in an effort to make the festival an all-day experience.
"I really do try and make sure there's a variety," said Schlecker, of the artists who participate. Roughly one-third are local or regional, and every vendor is juried by Schlecker's team.
And in keeping with his hunger to connect, he's introducing a number of emerging artists to the festival this year. "If you're starting out there's fear, there's the unknown, like "˜How many pieces should I show?'"
Schlecker has given them a discount rate to participate, and paired them with a mentor with multiple shows behind them. This year's show will feature 16 emerging artists.
"I'm good at networking, connecting people, organizing events," said Schlecker. "It's part of my DNA."