POSTED ON MAY 12, 2010:
Downtown gets busy with Mayfest, Blue Dome and Brady Arts festivals
Midway through May every year, Tulsa puts its best artistic foot forward to offer the community a combination of festivals that runs the gamut between nationally known and locally grown musical and artistic talent. Two major arts festivals, Tulsa International Mayfest and the Blue Dome Arts Festival, usually happen the same weekend, and this year the tradition continues.
Beginning May 13, Main Street between Third and Sixth streets will be flooded with artists and craftsmen from across the country, who have all come out victorious in a competitive jury process for exhibitors. Mayfest runs from May 13 till May 16 and will feature upwards of 100 juried and market artists in white tents peddling their wares.
The festival will also feature four specialty indoor galleries where more than 600 local artists' work will be exhibited.
Heather Pingry is this year's executive director for Mayfest. She said that the push in recent years toward all things green, and especially toward a more sustainable festival, has led to the opening of a "new indoor gallery this year that's really exciting," the Green Gallery. It will be located in the Park Centre Building lobby at Sixth and Main and will feature art that has been created from "reduced, recycled and re-purposed" materials.
Pingry said that the Green Gallery will feature plenty of local Tulsa artists. Awards will be given out for best use of material and best in show. The opening on May 13, 5-7pm, provides guests an opportunity to meet some of the artists.
In addition to the indoor galleries, Mayfest always includes an area especially devoted to kids. Pingry said that Mayfest will include a "bigger and better KidZone this year."
"It's really one of the highlights of the festival," Pingry said. "It's a great space because so many kids can go through there.
"We're really bringing the quality up several notches this year." One of these improvements to KidZone includes the addition to KidZone's musical lineup of nationally known acts, who will be taking the stage Saturday. Acts include Funky Mama, Lunch Money, Buffalo Fitz, Founders Chorus and Prairie Dawgs.
As usual, multiple local performers like the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences' jazz band and the Oklahoma Girls Chorus will be taking the stage the other three days.
A partnership between the Tulsa Girls Art School and Tulsa Transit will bring a unique art project to KidZone this year, "Art in Motion." Students from the Tulsa Girls Art School will paint a Tulsa Transit bus wrapped in vinyl to the theme of "Downtown Tulsa." The bus will be on display Saturday, and afterward, "You'll see the bus driving around downtown Tulsa," Pingry said.
Other highlights include a visit by Tulsa's WNBA team, the Tulsa Shock, which will play its first game Saturday night. On Thursday and Friday, members of the team "will be handing out fans to kids and coloring and decorating (them) with the kids," Pingry said.
KidZone will not be the only thing receiving a tune-up for this year's festival. According to Pingry, many people have complained in the past about the lack of places to simply sit down, relax and people watch. So this year, presenting sponsor Midfirst Bank will be providing a relaxation station at Fourth and Main. "Midfirst is going to bring a nice little oasis in the middle of downtown," Pingry said. They will provide astro turf and picnic tables and a place for Mayfest guests to catch their breath.
Besides the KidZone stage, Mayfest includes three other stages for musical guests. Each year, the festival features a national headliner. This year's major act will be Cherry Poppin' Daddies, who are probably best known for their single "Zoot Suit Riot."
"They're going to be a really good festival band," Pingry said. "They've got such a variety of genres that they incorporate." She said influences recognizable in their music include contemporary and old-time swing, jazz, hip hop, '40s and '50s music and a little bit of Caribbean.
The Daddies have a broad appeal, Pingry said; "People of all ages can enjoy their music." She said that they are the kind of band who will have teenagers up and dancing alongside their grandparents.
Apart from the headliner, "We've got a little bit of everything on all of our stages," Pingry said. (Check out G.K. Hizer's Soundcheck column this week for more information about the musical line-up on Page 44.) The Williams Green Stage, on Third between Main and Boston, is the main stage, where Cherry Poppin' Daddies will be performing. The two other stages are the David Cameron Community Stage at Fourth and Boston and the Bartlett Square Stage at Fifth and Main.
Mayfest has been a Tulsa tradition since 1973, when it was known as "Jubilee" and was designed to be a gift from the Junior League of Tulsa to the city to commemorate the simultaneous anniversaries of the Junior League, the City of Tulsa and the Tulsa Philharmonic Society. Since then, it has been produced through the Arts & Humanities Council, and the name was changed to "Mayfest" in 1987.
A few years after Mayfest got its name, a new arts festival made its debut, downtown and in the same weekend as Mayfest. For seven years, the Blue Dome Arts Festival has been taking place in conjunction with Mayfest, and the two festivals make an effort each year to complement each other.
Whereas Mayfest's main focus is the juried and market artists who come from all over the country, the Blue Dome Arts Festival focuses solely on local artists, and there is no jury selection process for exhibitors.
This year's Blue Dome Arts Festival will be one day shorter than Mayfest; it runs from May 14 through May 16. The festival is located on Elgin from First to Third and Second from Detroit to Elgin.
Muriel Hakim is director of community relations for the McNellies Group and is a representative for the Blue Dome Arts Festival. She said that the festival is a result of "the combined work from all of the businesses down here."
"We pride ourselves on (it being) all local Tulsa Artists," Hakim said.
Michael Sager, one of the festival's founders, said, "The festival is being hosted by the Blue Dome merchants ... All the restaurant and stores and everybody are playing a part being a host of the festival."
A stage for performances at Second and Elgin will comprise the musical portion of the festival. "We've got about four acts per day," Sager said.
"We've got chalk out for kids in the streets; we've got individuals that come play music in their booths. We're very much of an artistically oriented, let-your-hair-down festival," he added. "My personal favorite is really what hapens with the kids with the big buckets of chalk in the middle of the street. They become little ad lib artists on the spot."
This year, Jeff Wells from 3rd Street Clayworks will be bringing pottery wheels and giving demonstrations of pottery spinning.
New guests such as him as well as some artists who have been participating since the beginning of the festival will all exhibit together.
"We're also going to feature an emerging artists section," Hakim said, where some not-so-established artists may show off a few of their pieces.
"We're really excited that we've been getting an amazing response from the community," Hakim said. The people involved in the Blue Dome Arts Festival are excited about the festival's draw for those Tulsans who might not normally spend a lot of time in the downtown area.
That desire to draw people outside of their normal paths and into downtown Tulsa is one of the things that makes the simultaneity of Mayfest and Blue Dome work so well, and each festival is supportive of the other.
"We have a really good working realtionship with the Blue Dome Arts Festival," Pingry said. "The two festivals are very complementary of each other ... We each offer something different."
Aside from the main difference of a focus on national versus local artists, Blue Dome has shorter hours each day and does not include street food vendors such as Mayfest.
One commonality, however, is that both festivals are completely free to visit, whether to browse the art exhibits or to listen to the musical acts.
"Blue Dome has done an incredible job of showcasing local artists," she said. "It's such a good thing to have both of them going on at the same time."
Signs set up at each of the festivals point guests toward the other festival. "We're right next door; we welcome them; they welcome us," Sager said. "We are all about the Tulsa arts, and we support the arts seven days a week, 365 days a year."
"It's just always been kind of one big festival," Hakim said. Having the two complementary events "exposes the businesses ... to a lot of people who may not usually have been down here."
"The more the merrier," she added.
In fact, there's another festival attempting to move into the downtown festival neighborhood for the art epic weekend as Brady Arts District puts on its first arts festival. A few blocks north of Mayfest and Blue Dome will be the first annual Brady Arts Festival, called "The Art and Soul of Tulsa."
"This is not about competing with Mayfest as it's an international festival that brings artists from across the country," said Frank Campbell, one of the organizers of the festival. "Art and Soul of Tulsa is about promoting Tulsa artists."
The festival will run May 14-16, at the intersection of Brady and Main, running north to Cameron. Sponsored by a coalition of local artist group Local Art Matters and the Brady Business Association, the festival will showcase more than 40 artists working in mediums of all kinds.
Campbell said that the festival is -- like Blue Dome and Mayfest -- trying to bring additional art to Tulsa in a blossoming art district.
"(Brady Arts District) is going to explode very quickly into the major art district of Tulsa," he said.
Along with the local artists on display and for sale at the street festival, local musicians, such as Sam and the Stylees, Ghosts and Prairie Dawgs, will perform on a stage at the intersection of Brady and Main.
Living Arts of Tulsa will put on an ArtCar Parade Saturday -- working in conjunction with the Brady Arts Festival -- at 2pm. (Wanting to know more about this year's ArtCar weekend? Check out our "Arts" section for more info on page 40.)
For more information about Mayfest's exhibitors, hours or any other information, visit www.tulsamayfest.org. For more information about the Blue Dome Arts Festival, email email@example.com. For information about the Brady Arts Festival, visit lamok.org.
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