Remembering Fest300's Cofounder, Art Gimbel

Article by: Chip Conley|@ChipConley

Tue May 05, 2015 | 00:00 AM

This past weekend, our effervescent cofounder and creative director Art Gimbel passed away very suddenly. Below, Fest300's visionary founder Chip Conley pays his respects – on behalf of all of us on the Fest300 team – to Art's dynamic life and tireless love of festivals worldwide.

The festival fanatic: you can see the devotion in his or her eyes and feel it in their spirit. The experience of tapping into the collective effervescence of a party, pilgrimage, or parade lights them up. I would know – I’m one of those fanatics and I’ve enjoyed meeting many of you fellow fanatics in far-flung spots around the world.

Three years ago, I went in search of the world’s wisest festival guru and, inexplicably, found that this foremost fanatic lived in my chosen hometown, San Francisco. I remember our first meeting when we compared some of our festival highlights and lowlights, and outlined our bucket list of fests we'd yet to visit. Then we compared our winter festival schedules, and it turned out we were both going to Asia for the exact same five weeks – although none of the ten total festivals we were attending were on both of our lists.

Art And Chip

Thus began my business partnership with Art Gimbel that led to our cofounding of Fest300 in early 2013. What a joyous journey it has been! Art’s cultural curiosity and spirit of adventure, his stunning aesthetic talent with photography and videography, and his desire to celebrate humanity were constant inspirations to our Fest300 team as well as our broad and growing community. His journey wasn’t always easy, but Art’s natural flow of adapting to whatever life served him could be captured in Nietzsche’s wisdom, “He who has a why can bear with almost any how.” Art’s “why” – sharing a love of festivals with others – was his fuel and was profoundly inspiring to so many of us.

Art Jump

Sadly, Art’s magical, vagabond life ended way too prematurely – ironically, while driving to the Further Future last Friday night. Like so many of you, I have been experiencing waves of grief and have muttered "why?" quite a few times. I’ve been comforted by the writing of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, including this perfect description of Art on a good day and a bad day: “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

Art With Monks

Many of us sparkled and shined at festivals alongside Art. But it was in the most trying times that we got to glimpse the generosity of spirit that truly defined Art Gimbel. While many of us groused about the lack of a Wi-Fi connection or the festival's bathroom conditions, Art would wear his sly smile and, without saying a word, remind us that it’s the state of our human connection and the condition of our spirits that keep bringing us back time and time again. Art, thanks for creating an inspired life that is a role model for so many others. Your spirit lives on!