Niagara Gazette — “Artpark. An extension of that time in Western history when artists journeyed from one place to another, singing songs, making plays, painting a portrait-on the open road, in the open space. When once upon a time these things were not taken as ponderously as they are today, but that is the whole idea of Artpark.”
That is how former Niagara Gazette society editor Grace Russo Barbor described Artpark back in 1974. In two weeks, the park gets ready to commemorate its 40th season with a special concert recreating their opening night, July 24, 1974.
In 1974, there was no Tuesday in the Park or Coors Light Wednesdays but the concert calendar in August of 1974 did include Blue Oyster Cult and Buddy Guy, both of them return to Artpark this year.
The history of Artpark can be neatly placed into three eras. The years of conception and growth, the years of decline and near failure, and the resurgence at the turn of the century, which brings us to the present day and a thriving organization run by Artpark & Company.
At the helm of the ship is President George Osborne, who took on the job as president of Artpark in 1999.
It was a sunny afternoon when I arrived at the trailer that houses Osborne’s office next to the large amphitheater. He is not only Artpark’s leader, he is their resident historian and biggest cheerleader. Our hour-long conversation provided a wealth of material about the venue.
We began with his first impressions of Artpark when he arrived there in 1999.
“Artpark had a great reputation. To see the huge theater for the first time was impressive. The grounds were nice and I was into the visual arts stuff and I was excited about coming here, but after a week of digging into the financials I found out they were six months behind paying everybody.”