OKC Festival of the Arts

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View of the Festival of the Arts from the Devon Tower

Scroll down for Tiffnotes.

Ignore the giant mud puddle. That’s going to be a building eventually. Now, it’s only really visible from this view. When on the ground perusing art venders below at this year’s Festival of the Arts, I didn’t even notice it. See that strip of white squares? Each one hosts four juried artists selling glass, ceramics and pottery, sculpture of bottle caps and nails, paintings and drawings in oils and ink and watercolor. It’s colorful, bright, imaginative, inspirational, and sometimes weird.  Like the bacon and eggs table made from pressed bottle caps – the white oval table had two yellow yolks and the brown bacon benches undulated.

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A moveable swimmer sculpture colored with pressed bottle caps.

 

A pen and ink artist displayed whimsical work with intricate, realistic details. One titled, Carolina Bob and the Little People, showed a warm bearded face with little people trimming his beard with scissors and cleaning his glasses with squeegees.  Just a few stalls down an artist showed watercolors so detailed that I thought, at first, they were photographs. The artist was Robert from North Carolina or, “Carolina Bob.” The next night the first artist would present this at an annual artist dinner of friends at OKC’s infamous Cattleman’s and a small print of the original will be immortilized at the restaurant. It’s fun to see that some of these artists are also friends.

Arianna fell in love with the work of a photographer who has specialized in wolves.  Luci similarly was drawn to photography, finding an artist who photographs wild horses across the United States. Elise found a mandala artist especially fascinating. She takes portions of photographs from endangered species, and uses them to create mandalas. They were printed on metal disks – beautiful, but a bit pricy for us. My favorite artist was a painter who’s work looks like still life’s I’ve seen in European museums. The surface is sleek and shiny, the colors bold, subjects detailed, yet, in each there’s a touch of whimsy and fun. She makes her own paints and puts about 20 layers down on each canvas. The result is extraordinary.

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The art venders each occupy one side of one of these white square tents.

 

The “arts” is a term applied to more than just the visual arts. Though my favorite area is that long strip of rectangles showing work I can’t really afford right now, many flock here for the culinary arts, the circle of venders around the tower selling international foods and delicious desserts. The girls and I split the Strawberry Napoleon four ways which was very civilized of us… though I think we were all ready to fight over that last bite with our tiny plastic forks. It was delicious.  Elise had stuffed pizza. Arianna tried a BBQ Pork parfait: layered pork, mashed potatoes, and beans in a cup. Luci enjoyed BBQ pork nachos and I went straight to the Brazilian tent enjoying the same Feijoada Rohlino I’d had the day before at Café do Brazil. Next time, we’ll have to eat twice or get 8 things to split. There are so many options, it was really difficult to narrow it down to just a few.

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The food was amazing and so abundant, it would be easy to eat there every day of the festival and still not try everything.

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Strawberry Napoleon (after it was attacked – it was prettier before, but the fork was swifter than my camera)

On the east end of the Myriad Gardens, are demonstrations and hands-on art. This is where kids can get their faces painted or paint a ceramic pot for a raku firing and take it home just an hour later or you can watch live glass blowing demontrations. It’s a quieter area, but nice for kids. Paseo Pottery provided various sizes of bisque for various prices and three colors of paint. Raku kilns aren’t traditional kiln. They can be made from garbage cans. The pots are fired, then removed at their maximum heat instead of cooling slowly. The Raku method produces unpredictability, but that’s the draw.

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Glass blowers from Blue Sage Studios in the Paseo District, OKC

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Luci painted a pot at Paseo Pottery’s stand and it was fired using Raku kilns.

 

We ended up spending 5 hours at the arts festival on their opening day which is exactly what I’ll do next year if the weather permits. The forecast called for three consecutive days of rain, so mid-school day, I told the girls to stop working, get ready and we just left for a spontaneous day out. They each painted a raku pot and we watched the glass blowing. We ate very well and we perused art and talked to several artists. That in itself is an education and the day was just perfect with very minimal crowds being a weekday. By the weekend as we drove by both days, the crowds were thick and the sun hot. I wasn’t sad that I didn’t have time to return.

So the girls and I have agreed, it’s a new tradition – mother-daughter day at the opening day of the Festival of Arts.

TIFNOTES:  The Festival of the Arts is free to enter and offers enough to do and see to spend an entire day with ease. Just keep the following things in mind.

  • Bring cash.  You’ll need cash for parking and food.  Most of the parking lots surrounding the gardens are cash only ranging from $5-$10. The meter parking nearby is for artists. Though a handful of food and drink vendors accept credit cards, the majority do not. If you want the full variety of choices, bring cash. The average entree costs $7. The strawberry napoleon was also $7.
  • Outside food and water is OK. In fact, though I wouldn’t want to miss the flavors of the culinary arts area, for a full day walking around the Artsfest, you go through water fast. It would have been smart for us to bring a small backpack for snacks and water. (Especially if you have little ones.)
  • Use sunblock.  You will invariably be there longer than you intended and though there is shade, it’s an outdoor event. My pale one came home burnt.
  • The artists themselves DO TAKE CREDIT CARDS.  Yay!  This is good, but dangerous. They’ll give you an invoice for the item you want, then you can take all of your invoices to one of the payment tents run by the festival. They’ll total up and can charge your card for all of your transactions together, then you take your receipts back to the vendors and pick up your items.
  • Go early. To beat the crowds, go early and on a weekday if you can. This is also the best way to purchase the best art early before it’s gone.
  • Take the kids. They’ll like the pottery painting and face painting. There’s a children’s stage with music and a special art tent where they can go in by themselves and buy a real piece of art donated by one of the artists for $5 or less. It’s wonderful. We still have a couple things that my college student bought when she was little.

 

My Favorite Artists this year:

  • Caroline Christie: This is Luci’s pick of the day, a photographer who captures the life and movement of wild horses from locations around the United States.
  • ecoRidge: Elise’s was fascinated by these endangered species photos turned mandala. Very intriguing.
  • Susan Williams: Though Susan is an equine photographer, she also has a beautiful collection of wolf photos that Arianna loved.
  • Cynde Roof: This is my pick of the festival and I’m going to stalk her online and save up my pennies because her work is amazing – so much better in person than online. Just gorgeous.
  • Robin Lauersdorf: The most amazing pen and ink art that I’ve seen perhaps ever. His work is detailed, realistic, and yet fun and whimsical at the same time. Love it.
  • Ron Schmidt: We all found these nail sculptures really fun. He had a star of David with a cross in the middle that was tempting.
  • Sarah Collier: At The Charm School Dropout – I love the name and her work is as playful and fun.

 

 

 

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