48th Annual Festival of Arts

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48th Annual Festival of Arts
Annual Arts Festival brings the arts, community together

By Tim Farley

Organizers of the 48th annual Festival of the Arts aren’t changing anything this year, and for good reason.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is our slogan,” said Peter Dolese, executive director of the Arts Council of Oklahoma City.

As in past versions of the springtime event, 144 artists from around the nation representing 13 mediums will show off their masterpieces during the six-day festival which kicks off Tuesday, April 22 in downtown OKC and ends Sunday, April 27. The artists are selected by a three-member jury panel.

“Our mission is to bring the arts, whether it’s visual, performing or culinary arts, and the community together,” Dolese said. “This festival embodies what we’re about. The arts festival has been infused into the fabric of Oklahoma City and for us, it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.”

Interaction between artists and shoppers is a unique experience

“It’s not like going to a gallery where you don’t see the artist,” Dolese said. “This is a very personal experience between the consumer and the creator. It promotes the concept that arts are awesome and you can make a living at it.”

Some people will get a chance to browse and shop for their favorite piece of art before the festival starts.

“Those who pledge to spend $500 can shop as early as 7:30 a.m. the first day, and the art will be delivered to their home,” Dolese said. “It’s a very popular program and sets us apart from other festivals and the artists love it.”

Aside from the adult artists, the festival also sponsors a Young at Art Mart and a children’s art sale for students 8 to 18 years old.

Spring has sprung

Although rain and thunderstorms have been known to interrupt the festival, albeit briefly, the popular event still serves as Oklahoma City’s right of spring.

“When the arts festival arrives, we know that winter is over. People get excited and they celebrate,” Dolese said. “We kick the tires with this event knowing full well that every bit of weather occurs with this.”

Still, attendance figures remain fairly consistent as 650,000 to 700,000 people make their way onto the festival grounds each year, aided in part by the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon which is held the last day of the festival. The marathon, held in remembrance of the 1995 federal building explosion that killed 168 people, draws about 25,000 runners each year.

That type of attendance requires a lot of volunteers and coordination, which Dolese said is handled by festival director Angela Cozby.

“I may be executive director of the arts council, but at this time of year everyone here, including me, answers to Angela. She is our boss,” he said.

Having been involved with the arts festival almost his entire life, Dolese said the event couldn’t be held without the help of the 5,000-plus volunteers and the 48 committees that organize various parts of the festival.

“It’s a huge event and some people take a whole week of vacation to be down here,” he said. “We also have donors who provide goods and services. Without that, the cost would double to put this event on. We’ll have busloads of church groups, Boy Scouts, Rotary clubs, bank employees and just individuals who walk up and want to help. We build a little city down here.”

Plenty to do

It’s not just artwork that draws people to the festival. For many folks, it’s the food and the entertainment that brings them out.

For the second year in a row, the Culinary Arts Demonstration Stage is sure to garner plenty of attention as chefs from local restaurants prepare some of their favorite dishes in front of the crowd.

“You’ll see food like tamales, crepes and special vegan dishes being prepared,” Dolese said. “They (chefs) bring all the ingredients and prepare it right there. It gives the crowd the opportunity to see that food is art.”

Some of the participating restaurants include Café Do Brazil, Kitchen 324 and Café Kacao. Also participating will be chefs from Platt College’s di Domani Restaurant and local food columnist Sherrel Jones.

As usual, 31 vendors will take their place along International Food Row and throughout the festival area as festivalgoers satisfy their palettes with a plethora of food and drink. Each food vendor is paired with a local arts organization that receives a percentage of the food sales.

Besides the tasty and delectable food, continuous performances by about 300 performers at different stages will keep guests entertained. The Café Stage is located on the Festival Plaza, the Water Stage is in the Myriad Gardens and the Great Lawn Stage is north of the Crystal Bridge. The Art Moves stage will move from place to place.

“You never know where they’re going to pop up during the day,” Dolese said.

In addition, organizers have planned another “Festival Idol” competition this year for young talent kindergarten through 12th grade. Seven people will perform each of the first four preliminary nights. One performer will be chosen each of those nights to return for the Festival Idol Finals on Saturday evening. The finalists will perform again and a Festival Idol champion will be crowned.

Eco-friendly

For the last five years, the arts council has been working to make the festival an eco-friendly, zero-landfill event. The initiative is in the final year of a five-year plan.

“We will be recycling and composting all the waste from the festival,”Dolese said. “We’re using all biodegradable products and everybody who serves food is using biodegradable products. We want to make good on our promise of five years ago.”

All cardboard from the festival will be recycled and all food scraps will be tossed into a large compost area.

“The cups are green and the plates are green so we can easily spot the things that are not ours,” Dolese said. “We’ll have an entire area away from the public where all of the trash will be sorted.”

More information, festival schedules and maps are available at www.artscouncilokc.com

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