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Festival of the Arts kicks off 49th year with good weather but questions about a future venue

Brett Dickerson / Red Dirt Report
Vinyl artist and Arts Festival exhibitor Desiree Warren explains how she produces her unique clocks in the display behind her.
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Artist Desiree Warren came to Oklahoma City for her fifth year at Festival of the Arts fully prepared with sunscreen and winter wear. She said experience has taught her that the weather will almost go through all four seasons in one week, so you better be prepared.

Using aluminum and vinyl materials that are used by companies that manufacture street signs, she then finishes them with unique designs that become creative looking wall clocks in finished form.

Warren said that every year early there are lots of “lookers” who are just scoping out the festival to get ideas of what they might want to buy a little later in the week.

She also gets the usual lines delivered by jokesters who think that they are the first to hit her with clock-oriented humor, asking if she “has the time”, and if her clocks are “telling the correct time” (yes).

Venue change planned for next year

Festival of the Arts spokesperson Christina Foss told Red Dirt Report that the organizer of the Festival, the Arts Council of Oklahoma City, will have to do something different for a venue starting next year due to construction beginning on the new OG&E headquarters going in on the North half of the block where the old Oklahoma Theater Center sat, and a new housing development going in where the food court is now.

Foss said that the move will involve a lot of planning that includes the city, utility companies, and many others.

Referring to their current location, Foss said, “Here we have a built-in infrastructure that we’ve been working on for 30 years, so the whole process of moving that infrastructure is daunting.”

She said that their plan is to move to Bicentennial Park, which lies between the Civic Center and City Hall in downtown Oklahoma City. “But we would like to add that caveat that we have months and months of planning to go, so who knows what can happen. But as of now, that’s the plan.”

However, the remodeling of Bicentennial Park a few years ago did not take into account that the Festival might move there some day.

She said that the electrical service alone will be a big infrastructure item to be addressed.

“During the Festival, we use the about the same amount of power as three blocks of a residential area,” Foss said, “It’s a massive amount of power that it takes to run this event.”

However, they do believe that the new configuration of Bicentennial Park will make much more room for the festival than the old shrub-crowded park that existed for years before the remodel.

In the last 49 years the Arts Festival has grown from a small affair that involved only a few artists and light concessions that easily fit in the old park in front of the Civic Center to its current size this year of 144 visual artists and 22 culinary booths.

Attendees ambivalent about change of venue

Victor and Theresa Sansalone have been attending the Arts Festival for the last 20 years. They visit the Festival each year with a goal of buying Christmas gifts as well as gifts for birthdays and other special occasions.

When Red Dirt Report asked them what they thought about the Festival leaving the current venue each had different reactions.

Theresa was more philosophical and thought that there were a lot of open spaces around Bicentennial Park that would work well for the Festival. Victor said that he didn’t like that idea very well since the current site seems ideal to him.

Theresa summed up the reality of people adjusting to a new site: “Growing pains are always hard.”

When Red Dirt Report spotted long-time federal Judge Tim Leonard in the crowd, he said that he has enjoyed the current location but the new construction was going to happen. “I don’t think they have any choice,” he said. “We’re going to miss having it right next to the park, especially right after it’s been refurbished.”

However, for this year and this first beautiful day at the Festival of the Arts, people were enjoying the food, art, music and other features of the event which will continue through Sunday.

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About the Author

Brett Dickerson

Brett Dickerson is an adjunct teacher teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) courses for...

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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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