The Festival of the Arts is getting more interactive, expansive and local in its 47th year.
Plus, Oklahoma City's rite of spring is delving even deeper into the art of food with the addition of the Culinary Arts Demonstration Stage.
“We've spread our wings ... and we're adding some more attractions,” said Peter Dolese, executive director of the Arts Council of Oklahoma City, which organizes the festival. “Everywhere you go in the (Myriad) Gardens, you will come across a nugget of wonder that is part of the Festival of the Arts.”
The downtown celebration of the visual, performing and culinary arts will take place from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through April 27 and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 28 at the Festival Plaza, on Hudson Avenue and at the Myriad Botanical Gardens.
The Culinary Arts Demonstration Stage, the biggest addition to this year's festival, will surely have festivalgoers and food fans alike smacking their lips.
Situated on Stage Center Drive, the new stage will add a dash of interactive culinary flavor, with free 45-minute demonstrations from 23 of Oklahoma City's most talented and popular chefs, including The Oklahoman Food Dude Dave Cathey.
“They each chose what they're going to demonstrate and do,” said festival co-chairman Linda Whittington, adding the new stage was inspired by a similar attraction at Denver's Cherry Creek Arts Festival. “We think it will be great fun and a great way, too, for the restaurants to highlight great things that their chefs are doing.”
The tent housing the stage has been fully outfitted with a cooktop, sink, prep area and refrigerator, along with donated cabinetry and mirrors that will help the audience see the chefs' hands at work, she said.
The demonstrations will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Each session will be limited to 75 attendees.
The Artful Experience, where wood turners, glass blowers and other visual artists demonstrate their techniques, will move to the southeast corner of the Myriad Gardens to make room for the new culinary stage.
Along with mainstays like Indian tacos, Strawberries Newport and fish tacos, the festival's ever-popular International Food Row will get even more global flavor this year with new vendors Inca Trail Peruvian Restaurant, Waffle Awesome and LOCAL.
Like the visual artists who exhibit at the festival, the concessionaires must go through a competitive jury process. In addition, each of the 31 food vendors must partner with a local arts organization, said Stacy Hawthorne, communications director of the Arts Council of Oklahoma.
Again situated on the west side of the Myriad Gardens, the festival's 6-Day Wine Cellars are expanding and adding mimosas and premium beers to the menu, too.
The recent renovations to the Myriad Gardens lend themselves to airing out the festival, Whittington said.
“It allows us to have more area and not be so confined,” she said. “And of course, the beauty of the gardens is incredible this time of year.”
While the Children's Art Field, Young-At-Art Mart and Youth Art Sale will be near the permanent Children's Garden, the Creation Station and face painting booth (intended for children 12 and younger) have been shifted to flank the relocated Artful Experience.
In the Sculpture Park, which this year is spotlighting the work of Oklahoma artists, Larry Pickering and Brett McDanel also will demonstrate a variety of techniques from 6 to 7 p.m. daily throughout the festival.
Although the 144 festival artists exhibiting on Hudson Avenue hail from around the country, Hawthorne said the event showcases many talented Oklahomans.
For the second year, the festival will boast an Art Moves Stage, transplanting the council's popular daily downtown traveling arts program to the festival grounds during the event. With the festival spreading out into the gardens, the stage will be moved to the highly trafficked east side of the gardens where the ice rink sits in the winter.
This year, the Art Moves Stage will spotlight different genres of music every evening, from classical and jazz to indie and neo-soul.
More than 300 performers donate their time and talent to entertain on the festival's four stages, and the vast majority of them hail from Oklahoma, Hawthorne said.
“We're highlighting a lot of local artists throughout the grounds,” she said. “We have so many local art people coming out and offering up these really unique experiences.”