Sponsored and hosted by the Oklahoma City Arts Council, the 2008 Oklahoma City Arts Festival (commonly called, but the “formal” name is the Oklahoma City “Festival of the Arts”) was on display from April 22 – April 27 in downtown Oklahoma City for its 42nd annual downtown session. My wife and I and didn’t have too much of an opportunity to be there this year, but we did make the last 2 1/2 hours or so, and this post gives you a cursory idea of what the Arts Festival was like this year.
For several years, the location of the Arts Festival has been in the area shown below for this years’ … from Walker to Robinson west to east, and from Sheridan to Reno north to south … even though most may associate the festival with the artist booths which are in the street on Hudson from Sheridan to Reno, per this year’s map, shown below …
Read the Arts Council’s rendition of the festival’s history, but this excellent April 22, 2008, article by the Oklahoman’s Steve Lackmeyer, presently located here, tells the story from a more significant historical point of view …
Arts Festival helped keep downtown alive
By Steve Lackmeyer
Oklahoma City’s 1993 Metropolitan Area Projects — MAPS — has become a story of mythic proportions as the tale of downtown’s revival is told over and over again to visitors worldwide.
But lost in all this hoopla of the lead-up to Oklahoma City becoming a major league city is the annual spring Festival of the Arts.
Here’s a little secret between me and all of you readers: without the arts festival, I doubt there would have been much of a downtown left to save when 1993 finally rolled around.
In 1985, downtown was well on its way to the now notorious moment a few years later when it was declared dead by the Oklahoma City Council. Sure, it was hurting when the death certificate was being readied — but it wasn’t dead.
No matter how gloomy things appeared downtown, every April the city reunited downtown for one of the best showcases of the community’s creative class. North, south, east and west all showed up.
It was in 1985, the Arts Council of Oklahoma City made the jump from the tiny Civic Center Bicentennial Park to the Myriad Gardens. It was a risky move — and the arts community could have easily decided to move elsewhere — attractive suburban locations like Stars and Stripes Park.
The gardens were not exactly the lush green point of pride it is today. The Crystal Bridge was still an unfulfilled dream of Dean A. McGee. Downtown itself was desolate — Main Street was gone, the old grand theaters were gone, and Bricktown was bankrupt.
Yet the artists staked their dreams and recommitted themselves to downtown when few others did. The Arts Council also spent more than $750,000 renovating the old fire training station adjoining the gardens into the group’s new home.
By staying downtown and embracing the gardens, the festival reminded residents from all across the city that downtown still mattered — it was still the heart of the community. The festival showed residents what downtown could be — and maybe, just maybe, that vision resonated at the polls when MAPS became a reality in 1993.
Clearly, this investment by the arts community already was paying off for downtown when a terrorist attack hit the nearby Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on the eve of the 1995 festival. The festival that year was canceled and the annual celebration could have ended up going broke if not for a redoubling of support.
So today is not just the start of another downtown festival. Take a good look at the arts festival volunteers in some of those tents — folks who I’ve seen toughing it in scorching hot temperatures and in disaster-movie epic rainstorms.
They are the pioneers. They are visionaries who kept downtown alive just long enough for a few people with names like Ron Norick and Ray Ackerman to come around in 1993 and hatch a really crazy dream.
Now, that’s history at its finest!
Monday morning’s Oklahoman carried a post-festival report by Michael Kimball that about 750,000 attended the six-day festival this year, but it could well be that many more than that enjoyed the glorious downtown celebration of the arts! The Oklahoma City Arts Council gets a great big “tip o’ the hat” from Doug Dawgz Blog!
Enjoy the photos which I took on Sunday afternoon, April 27, 2008 …
Walking South on Hudson
Where Dogs Meet Martinis
(By the way, unlike the Paseo Arts Festival, for
this one, the rule is, “No real Dogs [or other pets] allowed.”)
OK, OK, so maybe I like dogs. OK?
Time For Food, West of Hudson
Even if one doesn’t care that much for art, great food booths
are a long-standing attraction of the Arts Festival.
1/3 of our time on this day was spent there!
While eating, we listened to several fine tunes being
performed on the “Deck Stage” area … sorry that I don’t have
the black guy’s name that we listened to, but he was fantastic!
Entering Myriad Gardens from Hudson
After eating and buying Birthday Girl a green amber ring
from a vendor (yes, green amber), we entered Myriad
Gardens to be present for one of the main reasons we
were there … to watch her daughter’s band perform in
the Myriad Gardens’ “Water Stage” performance area …
On arrival, Dime A Dozen, a local rock band
was performing, and I took a few shots of the area
Suspicious Contra Band
Birthday girl’s daughter is a member of the
Suspicious Contra Band, a local band that
performs Celtic, “contra dance,” Welsh & Irish tunes
Birthday Girl, Watching Her Daughter
That done, we walked north to exit,
and passed by these things …
Is there really any art more beautiful than this,
right here in downtown Oklahoma City?
Certainly, there was much more to see and do, but that’s all we could cram in to 2 1/2 hours. I need to spend more time there, next year!