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Artistic diversity and variety on display at Cushing's Festival in the Park

Bill O'Brien / Red Dirt Report
A sampling of Yusuf Etudaiye's artwork at Cushing's Festival in the Park.
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CUSHING, Okla. – Dancers, artists, musicians and more displayed their talents Saturday at the 29th annual Festival in the Park here in this Payne County community.

Kicking off with a series of dances by local girls, dancing to 1970’s-era classic rock songs, they did their best for the crowd, soon to be followed by the more experienced dancers and performers with Cushing High School’s cheerleading squad.

A potter participating in the festival, Yusuf Etudaiye, is a native of Nigeria and frequents festivals throughout the region offering up his distinctive creations, many of which are found in homes and galleries across the Sooner State.

Etudaiye formerly operated a gallery in McAlester, where he taught his craft to a wide variety of people which has given him an insight into the people of Oklahoma that is reflected in his work.

Artist Yusuf Etudaiye at Cushing's Festival in the Park. (Bill O'Brien / Red Dirt Report)

And while his early work consisted of bowls, cups, and other objects that can be made from clay, in recent years he has produced heads of people, birds, and a variety of animals. His Christian faith also imbues his art, and his booth included image of angels and crosses.

His human portrayals have prompted some to conclude that he is in fact a sculptor. The Lachenmeyer Arts Center operated a place that allowed patrons to paint on cups that were then glazed on a kiln powered by wood fire that produced interesting blends of color.

Also on hand were a trio of country musicians who made their way the crowd like a Mexican Mariachi band, periodically stopping to perform to the delight of the attendees.

Troubadours at the Festival in the Park in Cushing. (Bill O'Brien / Red Dirt Report)

“Vote early and often” a Chicago official advised during Prohibition, and it is possible that allegations of ballot stuffing could arise from the chili cook off that was part of the event. Several different entities in Cushing sponsored dueling chili stands and the participants could be seen making their way from one stand to another brandishing small cups, with which they sampled the various concoctions of chili and then cast ballots on behalf of the organization that they thought made the best one.

The enthusiasm of some of those who were dispensing chili could possibly raise issues as to the fairness of the contest.

Chroniclers of the process of gentrification in neighborhoods New York City usually write about how that transformation begins with artists with of modest means moving into a moribund neighborhood and begin to make it more presentable, and that the artists in time are followed by coffee dispensers and wine bars.

It is possible that a somewhat similar evolution may be occurring in downtown Cushing on Harrison Street where a pair of artists, Steve and Veva Bloom, sell imaginative metal works from a sidewalk stand. And a coffee shop is currently under construction in a building across the street.

Some metal artwork displayed by Steve and Veva Bloom. (Bill O'Brien / Red Dirt Report)

Celebrity chef and CNN television traveler Anthony Bourdain toured the Caribbean nation of Haiti several years ago, and documented the role that metal constructions made by local artists who work in that medium play in the Haitian arts scene. And the place maintained by the Bloom’s was reminiscent of the outdoor galleries that Bourdain took his crew to.

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Bill O'Brien

Bill O'Brien is an attorney based in Oklahoma City.

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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