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OKC’s Festival of Arts introduces big changes: fewer days, cashless format

From the shorter, four-day format with longer hours to the move to a completely cashless format, people can expect big changes at this year’s Festival of the Arts in downtown Oklahoma City.

But organizers plan for the popular “spring ritual” to still be the familiar community celebration of visual, performing and culinary arts that OKC has come to know and love.

“Once they get on the ground, they’ll see that things are just bigger and better and more expansive: better food, better art, better performances, more activities and longer hours, too,” said Angela Cozby, executive director of Arts Council Oklahoma City, which produces the festival.

“And right now the weather is looking really great for that week.”

Launched in 1967, the Festival of the Arts attracts more than 550,000 visitors annually from across the state and even around the world. The free event will still feature works by 144 visual artists, diverse offerings from nearly 40 food vendors and trucks, a wide variety of live entertainment, children’s activities and more.

Here’s what you need to know about the drastically changed Festival of the Arts 2024:

When and where is the Festival of the Arts 2024?

The flagship event for the nonprofit Arts Council OKC, the 58th annual Festival of the Arts, is scheduled for April 25-28 in and around Bicentennial Park, Colcord and Couch Drives and the City Hall lawn.

This year marks the debut of the event’s new four-day Thursday-Sunday format, which replaces the old six-day Tuesday-Sunday schedule.

“We were the only six-day festival in the country. The typical festival lasts three to four days, and that’s what artists like to do. (For the) artists, this is a profession… and they go from festival to festival And it’s difficult for them to rebuild their employment base if they leave straight from our six-day festival and travel again,” Seth Lewis, director of Festival of the Arts, told The Oklahoman.

After announcing the shortened event, organizers received 200 additional artist applications, Cozby said. This year, 144 visual artists from across the country will be in attendance, including 80 who have never shown their work in OKC before.

“It’s really incredible that the community is being exposed to new artists and new works of art, and for our art buyers, we’re really excited,” she said.

The 2024 Festival of the Arts will last fewer days, but will open an hour later on weekends. In addition, there is an earlier start on Sunday, April 28, suitable for participants of the OKC Memorial Marathon.

The new festival hours are Thursday, April 25 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday April 26-27 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, April 28 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“If you can hang out until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, it really becomes a weekend date night destination,” Cozby said. “Then come out early on Sunday, as soon as you’re done with the marathon activities, and then we’ll stay open an hour later until 7 p.m. With these extended opening hours, there is even more opportunity to enjoy everything the festival has to offer.”

How will the move to a cashless event streamline the festival?

Another big change is that the Festival of the Arts will be a completely cashless event for the first time. All performers and food vendors will only accept debit or credit cards, which is expected to simplify purchases for both festival goers and vendors.

“Not having cash really makes purchases on the festival site faster, easier and more convenient, especially for anyone who has ever bought art. Before the festival it was always a bit of a tedious process: you had to go to the artist, get an art sales ticket , find an art sales booth, wait in line, deal with a volunteer and then return to your artist and exchange your paid ticket for your artwork,” said Cozby. “So being able to buy directly from our artists really streamlines that process. Then of course you can just use your card anywhere on the site, swipe and go.”

For students attending the festival or for those who do not use a credit or debit card, visitors can exchange their money on site for free into a card that they can use during the event. There is a $10 minimum for the kiosks.

What improvements will be made to the festival’s children’s activities?

Popular children’s activities such as Pottery Place, Creation Station, face painting and more will surround City Hall during the festivities. With the move to cashless, all activities offered at the Children’s Art Field will now be free.

In addition, the long-standing Young at Art Mart, an adult-only tent where young people can purchase art without parental input, has been revamped and renamed the Young Collectors Club.

“We have some amazing artists from the festival, as well as local artists not at the festival who have donated artwork,” Cozby said. “These kids who can go in there and shop are really going to hit the jackpot with artwork that they can buy. It’s going to be a pretty spectacular space.”

The Youth Art Sale, featuring works by emerging artists aged 8 to 18, will take place on Saturday, April 27 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

What can hungry customers expect from the fest’s International Food Row?

The festival favorite is International Food Row, with 22 food tents lining the streets on the north and south sides of Civic Center Music Hall, which will live up to its name this year, Cozby said.

“It’s, I think, an even greater variety of food than we’ve had before in terms of international flair. We’ve got Italian, American, Greek, Korean barbecue, Mexican, Indian. And again, we attribute that to a shorter festival ,” she said.

“We will have more vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, which in the past have been very difficult for people to find.”

Add to that the food trucks that will be located outside City Hall and the food carts scattered throughout the grounds, and festival-goers can choose from 39 culinary vendors.

In addition, each food vendor at the festival partners with a local arts nonprofit for the event: the nonprofit may provide volunteers or other support, and the vendor is required to make a monetary contribution to the nonprofit.

What can festivalgoers expect from the performing arts lineup?

More than 100 local artists will provide non-stop entertainment on two stages during the festival, with an eclectic performing arts lineup ranging from jazz and country bands to cloggers and hip-hop dancers.

In addition, an expanded Art Moves program will place musicians, visual artists and jugglers in the festival’s Sculpture Park, in the lobby of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and elsewhere throughout the event.

“We have a new director, Erin Clemons, for Art Moves… and she has spread her program throughout the festival grounds. So you may be walking around and suddenly come across Joe Coover, a local magician, or a chalk artist. , or an acoustic guitarist on the steps of the Civic Center. So there will be pop-up performances throughout the festival,” Cozby said.

In a festival first, the main stage finale on Saturday evening at 8 p.m. April 28 will be a collaborative performance between the Oklahoma City Ballet and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic.

How is the Arts Council integrating OKC Fresh Paint into the festival?

After scrapping the long-running Opening Night New Year’s Eve event last year, Arts Council OKC is adding the fledgling Fresh Paint mural project, a collaboration with OKC Thunder that had become a key part of the NYE festivities, to the Festival of the Doctor .

The Fresh Paint mural project gives Oklahoma artists of color ages 18 to 25 the opportunity to create 8-by-8-foot murals that can be displayed throughout the festival grounds. Festivalgoers can vote for their favorite mural at https://www.nba.com/thunder/artscouncil.

This year’s Fresh Paint artists are Esther Velasco, Makiya Deerinwater, Syon Houston, Adamaris Rodriguez and Huey Robinson.

“We are excited to once again partner with the Oklahoma City Thunder to showcase the outstanding work of Black, Indigenous and artists of color who represent the beauty found in the diversity of our community,” said Cozby.

“It’s tremendous exposure for our participants.”