Festival of the Arts celebrates visual, culinary and performing creativity, begins Tuesday in downtown Oklahoma City
From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman. To see the Festival of Arts performing arts schedule, click here.
Festival of the Arts celebrates visual, culinary and performing creativity
Oklahoma City’s “rite of spring” begins Tuesday and continues through April 29 in downtown.
Brian Gililland can hardly wait to introduce his band’s indie folk music to thousands of potential new fans at one of Oklahoma City’s premier spring events.
O Fidelis, the local group Gililland fronts with his wife and fellow singer/multi-instrumentalist Laney, will be among the performers Tuesday as the 46th annual Festival of the Arts kicks off in downtown Oklahoma City.
“This is the first year that we actually applied and we got in, so we’re excited,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity for exposure and … a different audience than what we are normally able to play in front of. Because a lot of times we play in bars, people have to come to us. With this kind of thing, it’s almost like we get to come to the audience.”
Known as Oklahoma City’s annual “rite of spring,” the festival will celebrate the visual, performing and culinary arts from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through April 28 and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 29.
An array of activities will take place at the Festival Plaza, on Hudson Avenue and at the revamped Myriad Botanical Gardens, which were only about 70 percent complete during last year’s festival. The Arts Council of Oklahoma City, which organizes the festival, is looking forward to showcasing the refurbished gardens during one of downtown’s biggest events of the year, said Festival Director Angela Cozby.
“There’s areas that are open that weren’t open last year, like the beautiful children’s garden right next to our children’s area. So there’s children’s activities and then you can go and play in this beautiful children’s garden with the water feature which replicates the different stages of Oklahoma weather, from fog to thunder and lightning and rain. It’s quite a sight to see,” Cozby said.
“We didn’t expand through the entire park, but we plan to within the next couple of years.”
Along with culinary mainstays like Indian tacos, Strawberries Newport and fish tacos, the festival’s ever-popular International Food Row will get even more global flavor this year with several new vendors. Like the visual artists who exhibit at the festival, the concessionaires must go through a competitive jury process. In addition, each of the festival’s 31 food vendors must partner with a local arts organization, Cozby said.
This year, newcomers AAA/Bon Appetit Catering will team with Red Earth to serve up fresh shrimp and seafood cocktails, Italian muffuletta sandwiches and bananas foster ala mode. Adella’s will partner with Reduxion Theatre to peddle Italian nachos and a wrapped sausage called an Italiano Fire Stick. Cajun King and Norman Arts Council will dish up red beans and rice, fried catfish and fried chicken.
Perhaps the most unusual new food items will be the Australian jaffles and salads at the KCSC-FM booth. Jaffles are sandwiches similar to panini that contain such mixtures as apple, cheese and raisin, hummus, bell pepper and onion and zucchini, cheese, tomato and basil.
“They’re absolutely divine,” Cozby said. “They will be a unique food item, something a little healthier than you typically see with festival food … They’re a great addition to our vegetarian menu.”
For the first year, the festival will give out food awards, said Sue Hale, the festival’s volunteer co-chairman. On Tuesday, three celebrity judges, including The Oklahoman Food Dude David Cathey, will name the top items in various categories, including best entree and dessert.
“Everybody loves festival food,” Hale said. “The really fun part is we’re going to have people’s choice so that people can go online to ArtsCouncilOKC.com and pick which of the festival foods they like.”
In addition, the festival will give awards to the top visual artists for the first time, Hale said.
More than 600 artists applied for the chance to exhibit their fares on Hudson Avenue, with the jury choosing 144 Plaza Artists from 28 states and two foreign countries. The selected artists work in a variety of media, including oil and acrylic paint, glass, sculpture, fiber, jewelry, wood and leather.
For the second year, the prestigious South Hudson Gallery will have a pro-am theme. The 20 professional artists are all Oklahomans who have been partnered with amateur artists who also happen to be prominent local women leaders.
The pairs include former basketball star and painter Desmond Mason with Linda Whittington, owner of Corner Energy LLC; Paseo potter Colin Rosebrook with Maureen Heffernan, director of the Myriad Gardens Foundation; and painter Abby Stiglets and Kelly Dyer Fry, editor of The Oklahoman.
In addition, the festival’s sculpture garden will primarily exhibit the work of Oklahoma artists this year, Cozby said.
With the exception of the designated street performer, homegrown talents also are the focus of the festival’s performing arts lineup, she said. Australian comedian/contortionist Al Millar, AKA The Human Knot, will be this year’s street performer.
“We typically bring in somebody internationally or at least nationally well-known, and we’re really excited to have Al be a part of the festival. He was a contestant on ‘Australia’s Got Talent’ … and he has a very strange and entertaining act,” Cozby said.
The festival will include nearly 300 acts from across Oklahoma donating their time and talents, which range from clog dancing and woodcarving to improv comedy and rock music.
This year’s event will feature four stages, including the traditional Cafe and Water stages. The Myriad Gardens’ Great Lawn Stage will replace the Children’s Stage and still offer entertainment by and for youngsters as well as an expanded lineup, Cozby said.
With the closure of Stage Center, the festival is swapping the Deck Stage for the new Art Moves Stage, transplanting the popular daily traveling arts program that started last fall in downtown to the festival grounds during the event. Art demonstrations, poetry readings and musical performances will grace the Art Moves Stage.
For O Fidelis’ Gililland, the chance to play the Myriad Gardens’ Water Stage during the festival is a big thrill.
“We usually go every year, and we usually go for the music, of course. But I love looking at all the different artwork that comes in. Some of it’s really, really unique,” he said. “The fact that it’s free to the public and you can just peruse all day is really cool.”
Festival of the Arts
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through April 28, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 29.
Where: In Festival Plaza on Hudson Avenue and at the revamped Myriad Botanical Gardens.
Admission: Free. Pets are not allowed.
Information: 270-4848 or www.artscouncilokc.com.