Something in the Air - Page 2

How the Eichlers of San Jose transformed an impromptu art-filled happening into the ambitious Fairglen Art Festival
Something in the Air
Art hangs on a fence for Art in Our Alley, circa 1962-'63.
Something in the Air
The festival attracted larger and larger crowds over the years, drawing 5,000 at one point.
Something in the Air
Minding the art store and babysitting at the same time.
Something in the Air
Maggie Caploe, one of the earliest founders of Art in
Our Alley.

It would be difficult for a builder today to replicate their spirit, as they were spun in a time when space travel and modern living were at our doorstep. Only now, decades beyond the heyday of my youth, do I realize that an Eichler existence was for the fortunate few—the sons and daughters of the '60s. At the time, however, we had no idea just how blessed the flower children of the cherry orchards were.

The walls of neighboring Eichler homes featured paintings and prints by artists such as Klee, Miro, Picasso, and Cezanne. Most of these reproductions could be found in a bin at the local Thrifty's drugstore or at import shops Cost Plus and Akron. Later, Pollock, Warhol, and Lichtenstein prints would replace them.

Soft shapes, clean lines, dirty martinis, and cool Tom Collins—that's what the San Jose Eichlers were all about. Even the phrase 'mid-century modern,' coined by journalist Cara Greenberg two decades later, hinted at the new and old mixed together like rum and Coke.

Two years after we arrived, the 'Fairglen Art Festival,' an improvised mini arts-and-crafts fair, quietly germinated in our Eichler enclave. The festival's reputation would eventually spread across the entire Bay Area and feature the most talented local painters, craftspeople, weavers, and entertainers.

The actual origin of the Fairglen Art Festival has been macraméd together from oral history passed from neighbor to neighbor, and from one generation to the next. Contrary to what its name may suggest, the event did not start on Fairglen Avenue. In fact, it didn't even begin as the Fairglen Art Festival.

Its origin can be traced to Maggie Caploe, who also lived on Fairgrove Court, as well as to our next-door neighbor Les Lambson and a handful of residents hovering in homes just outside our cul-de-sac.

One summer afternoon in 1962, Maggie set up an exhibit of her handmade arts-and-crafts creations inside her Eichler and then invited a few of the neighbors in to have a look. They noshed on cookies rolled in confectioners sugar and emptied a pot of Folgers from the tall percolator.

Drawings, tapestries, ceramics, prints, note cards, and paintings were strategically scattered and displayed from the kitchen to the living room and down the hallway. Maggie called them "oddments" and managed to sell a sprinkling of pieces to her guests.