A version of this story appears in Friday’s Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.
OCCC’s Arts Festival Oklahoma marks 35th anniversary
A late-summer tradition on Oklahoma City’s south side, the festival offers fine art, live entertainment, children’s activities and festive food.
School may be back in session at Oklahoma City Community College, but on Labor Day weekend, a heady combination of fine art, live music and fried food draws thousands to the south Oklahoma City campus.
Now in its 35th year, OCCC’s Arts Festival Oklahoma has become a beloved late-summer tradition, drawing about 25,000 to the campus each year. The three-day free festival begins Saturday morning and continues through Monday afternoon.
“It’s something that our board (of regents) 35 years ago wanted to start for this side of Oklahoma City, something to get that cultural feel down here … and expose people to the arts, be it visual or performing arts,” OCCC
spokeswoman Kim Holding said, adding it is one of the south side’s biggest yearly events.
This year, about 120 juried artists from around the country will exhibit their wares, ranging from pottery and paintings to jewelry and woodwork, in large tents on campus. About 50 of the artists are making their Arts Festival Oklahoma debut.
“So even if you’ve been previous years and you think ‘Well, it’s probably gonna be some of the same artists, there’s a lot of brand-new ones,” said OCCC spokeswoman Deirdre K. Steiner.
Featured artist Jennifer Lashbrook of Dallas will be among the first-time exhibitors. The Illinois native creates her innovative “swatch paintings” by meticulously collecting, arranging, cutting out and gluing in place paint swatches she collects at home improvement stores.
“We want to show a cross-section of arts, not just all one thing. There’s lots of mediums, lots of different techniques, lots of different styles,” Steiner said. “I think that’s what makes it interesting is you get to see things that may not be something you would normally be exposed to, with the featured artist especially. We really try to get someone that’s very unique.”
The featured entertainers are a combo of new and old, too. Festival newcomers Michael Todd & The Wild Frontier Band will play original Americana/rock at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, while event mainstay the Oklahoma City Philharmonic will perform a sampling of traditional, pops and patriotic music at 8 p.m. Sunday, with a fireworks accompaniment beginning at dusk.
“When the sun goes down at the Philharmonic starts on Sunday night, I mean, that place is packed,” Holding said.
The performing arts schedule also includes returning favorites like classical guitarist Edgar Cruz, Yumare Mexican Folkloric Dancers and the OCCC Jazz Ensemble.
In the Children’s Activity Tent, youngsters can paint their own pottery, get their faces painted, participate in other arts activities and play in the popular giant sandbox.
Along with traditional festival fare like Indian tacos, foot-long corn dogs and funnel cakes, this year’s menu will include new treats like fried Twinkies, crepes, beignets, chocolate-dipped strawberries, assorted flavor pork rinds and a “guiltless” concessionaire serving up Caesar salads.
“It’s a tradition, it’s family-friendly, it’s inexpensive,” Holding said. “There’s something for everyone.”
35th Annual Arts Festival Oklahoma
When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday.
Where: Oklahoma City Community College, SW 74 and May Ave.
Parking: $5 per car on OCCC campus.
Information: 682-7576 or www.occc.edu/AFO.