Some have thought the Vision Festival lost in time because it celebrates an avant-garde brand of jazz often closely associated with the ’60s. Held in a series of synagogues, churches, theaters and funky performance spaces, the festival has indeed always been a “happening” because it includes visual artists, poets, political activists and filmmakers as well as volunteerism and grassroots commerce. “Early on, people seemed to be embarrassed by the idealism of the Vision Festival, particularly in the press,” said founder and artistic director Patricia Nicholson Parker, a few days after this year’s closing night. “They think of idealism as a bad thing. But what I’m trying to do, and this may be corny, is give people hope—that you can be successful doing what you really want to do.”
The Vision Festival has arrived as the hopeful festival that could, and did. It operates as a non-profit, non-corporate-funded affair run by Arts for Art’s Nicholson Parker, a dancer by profession but a tireless worker by disposition, along with a staff of volunteers and helpers. Few would have bet that it would be New York’s only continuously run jazz festival over the last 20 years, becoming the David to such Goliaths as the various festivals presented by the George Wein-founded Festival Productions and the Knitting Factory under Michael Dorf.