The Festival of the Arts returns April 25. (Photo courtesy of the Arts Council OKC)
By Katrina Crumbacher and Jacobey Brossie
Editor in Chief and Staff Writer
On April 25, downtown Oklahoma City will transform into a hub of art and culture as the Festival of the Arts returns.
The Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts is one of the most anticipated events of the year. For six days, Bicentennial Park will be filled with food trucks, artwork and live performances suitable for all ages.
“I love the food. I love the art. I love the whole week. I love being there,” said Farooq Karim, Festival of the Arts co-chair. “It’s almost like the living room of the city for the week. Everybody’s just there hanging out and enjoying being outside and enjoying each other.”
The Festival of the Arts draws more than half a million people and generates over $2.2 million in art sales every year. The proceeds go toward various activities and educational opportunities offered throughout the year by the Arts Council.
“It brings the arts and the community together,” said Susie White, Festival of the Arts co-chair. “I personally enjoy it because not only is it a festival and not only is it allowing people to have an excuse to come downtown and eat lots of food and see lots of art, but it’s bringing monies into the community.”
It takes 11 months, 22 committees and over 5,000 volunteers to prepare for the Festival of the Arts. In the seven to 10 days prior to the festival, countless contractors transform Bicentennial Park into a trendy festival venue.
“I had never come down before the festival starts,” she said. “You go from a park one day to truckloads of scaffolding and tents. All the equipment arrives, then people start to build it. You go from the flat park to a festival all of a sudden.”
Oklahoma City has cultivated a love for the arts for generations. C.J. Bradford, 77, is an award-winning artist and has participated in the Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts for nearly 40 years.
“When I was a young man, [the Festival of the Arts] was the biggest thing all over the nation,” he said. “It was a big deal to be in that show.”
As a college student, Bradford attended the University of Oklahoma and was mentored by Hsiao-yen Yeh, an accomplished artist of traditional brush painting.
“I’ve been doing this all my life,” he said. “I was a very poor student, so my way of communicating was through my art.”
Bradford said having opportunities to interact with people is what makes the Festival of the Arts fun.
“The Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts is very well run and very organized,” Bradford said. “You don’t realize until you go to other shows just how well run it is.”
The Festival of the Arts has grown and improved over time as more people have attended.
In 1967, Marion DeVore organized the state’s first Festival of the Arts with a measly $15,000 budget. The event highlighted 43 artists and even offered homemade tuna sandwiches to visitors. Since then, the Festival of the Arts has showcased thousands of artists from across the globe.
“It’s the artist meeting the public,” Bradford said. “It’s not like a gallery or a museum where the artists aren’t really meeting you there. We get to hear the questions and see the interaction. You get to have conversations with the artists as the artist gets to have conversations with the people. It’s more human.”
Bradford has said he will be attending the Festival of the Arts, and his work will be available for purchase.
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