Art lovers, music fans and foodies are invited to go back to school to celebrate the final days of summer.
Oklahoma City Community College is hosting the 34th Annual Arts Festival Oklahoma Saturday through Monday under the big tents on the festival grounds at the north end of campus. The event has become a favorite Labor Day weekend tradition at the school, said Lemuel Bardeguez, OCCC's director of cultural programs.
“It's just a really great way to kind of cap the summer: See some great art, buy some prints or original art to finish your home with. If you have a family, bring the kids out,” he said. “It's a really great family event.”
Every Labor Day weekend, more than 25,000 people flock to the three-day festival, where more than 160 artist booths are set up under block-long tents, a performing arts stage spotlights a variety of live entertainment and a food court serves up a wide array of mouthwatering treats.
Tulsa mixed-media painter Neil Cluck is the featured artist for the 2012 festival. An image of one of his three-dimensional abstract skyscapes is depicted on this year's limited edition poster. The original oil-on-wood work will be exhibited during the festival at Cluck's booth, but Bardeguez said he expects it to sell quickly after the event opens Saturday.
“The poster design doesn't do justice to the piece (since) the piece is actually three dimensional,” Bardeguez said. “It's quite interesting. It's quite eye-catching.”
Cluck, 58, is participating in the festival for the sixth time in the past decade and his second year in a row.
“I like the Oklahoma City setting. The people there are pretty open-minded. I think all the art like the Chihuly ... has really kind of opened them up to accepting new things,” Cluck said.
About 150 visual artists from across the state, region, country and even Canada have been juried into this year's festival. Their creations include drawings, paintings, photography, pottery, glass art, jewelry, mixed media, wood and metal works, sculpture, fine crafts and fiber art.
One booth this year will be dedicated to displaying works by OCCC art students, Bardeguez said.
“This is something that we're trying this year to give them kind of the opportunity to show their artwork and be able to sell some of their artwork,” he said.
At the Children's Activity Tent, youngsters can get hands-on at several make-and-take arts and crafts stations, a raku pottery area and a giant sandbox.
“We have a face painter every year that is juried, so it's not your typical face painting. It's very elaborate,” Bardeguez said.
Music and food
The performing arts stage on the north side of the festival site will showcase a broad range of entertainment, from the OCCC Student Jazz Ensemble and self-described “red dirt bluegrass hillbilly” band Burlap Tuxedo to Yumare Mexican Folkloric Dancers and classical guitarist Edgar Cruz, a local festival favorite.
“What we feature during the day are primarily Oklahoma artists,” Bardeguez said. “Our festival has some things that are kind of unique to the DNA: We actually pay headline entertainment to come in and provide entertainment free of cost to our patrons in the evening.”
On Saturday night, nationally known tribute performer Billy McGuigan will take festivalgoers back to the early days of rock 'n' roll with Rave On! The Buddy Holly Experience. The Oklahoma City Philharmonic will play Sunday night, with fireworks lighting up the sky after the performance.
Patrons are invited to bring lawn chairs or blankets and plunk down on the grass to enjoy the concert. They will have plenty of festive fare to choose from if they want dinner with the show.
“The food is, of course, great. It's festival food and we have anything from Indian tacos to turkey legs to a few more ethnic things like Greek baklava and gyros. ... And of course, anything you can fry, it's available,” Bardeguez said with a laugh.
Although OCCC hosts Arts Festival Oklahoma, Bardeguez said it is truly a community event. More than 400 volunteers work the festival every year.
“It kind of puts south Oklahoma City on the map,” he said. “It's the kind of event that has lots of community support and that the college is very proud to put on.”