Premier on Film Row, one of the newer monthly downtown festivals, is adding an indoor interactive park this week that will include kite flying, sand boxes and art exhibits for kids.
The park, which will remain open Saturdays through February, is the latest twist for the event, which began as “Final Friday” in April 2012 as a way to promote awareness of the district just west of the Myriad Gardens.
Monthly festivals have sprouted up throughout downtown as it has become an increasingly vibrant urban core beyond the normal work day. It was when Kendall Brown, executive director of IAO Gallery on Film Row, attended the monthly H&8th food truck festival in nearby Midtown about a year ago that the Film Row festivities began to evolve.
“We realized that when we met with the folks at H&8th, we were competing with that,” Brown said. “We didn't want to do that — we wanted to be a good neighbor. So we moved it to the third Friday and became Premier on Film Row.”
That collaboration, in turn, drew interest from Jonathan Fowler, who as vice president of Fowler Auto Group was already sponsoring monthly festivities at H&8th and the 16th Street Plaza District.
Fowler asked H&8th organizers if he could join that early meeting with Brown, and it didn't take long for him to decide to add the Film Row festival to his company's sponsored events.
“It took me five minutes of seeing the passion in the room,” Fowler said. “It's a no-brainer for me. It's in lockstep with my passions. We've been doing everything we can to support great organizations like IAO and areas like Film Row. Instead of spending everything on TV and radio, we put money back into supporting the community. It's all about educating the greater Oklahoma City community about what is going on.”
A monthly festival on Film Row — the 700 block of W Sheridan Avenue — would have been unthinkable a decade ago when most of the buildings were empty and boarded up and vagrants slept on doorsteps.
That changed as developer Chip Fudge began to buy and renovate many of the Art Deco buildings that were once home to film exchange operations for Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Fox Films. Other developers followed his example.
Before the age of jet travel, film exchanges served the film industry as distribution centers, where theater owners came to view and lease films. Film Row is one of the last intact districts left in the country and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
The district is now home to IAO; The Paramount, a coffee shop and screening room; Chopt, a sandwich and desert shop; Joey's Pizzeria; creative firms and Fudge's claims management companies, which employ more than 300 people.
With Fowler's sponsorship, the monthly festival grew and now features film screenings, live music, art exhibitions and gourmet food trucks.
The newest attraction — conversion of the IAO gallery into an interactive indoor park — was a natural fit for the nonprofit, Brown said.
IAO was founded by poets in 1979, Brown said, and was intended to represent various arts that are progressive in nature.
“One of the great things we can do is present new art to youth and raise them to become future artists and arts patrons,” Brown said. “We don't want to just serve the arts patrons who are in the 20s, 30s and older. We want to reach these people who are kids, and when they're in their 20s they'll remember the experiences they had at IAO and want to come back.”
Billed as the city's first indoor urban park, the gallery will feature an interactive playground designed by local artists to encourage creative exploration for kids and families. The park will include Lego and sandbox play areas, ceiling kite flying, a multimedia green screen, noodle forest, balloon animals and hula hoops. “Seeking Sitters” will provide professional supervision.
“Similar to a children's museum in its approach, the idea is to provide a safe, visually engaging atmosphere for kids and parents with guided play zones and activities that challenge attendees to decide on their own how they want to interact,” Fowler said. “It will almost feel like they're outside playing.”
If you go
Premier on Film Row
Premier on Film Row is held every third Friday, 6 to 9 p.m. The pop-up park at the IAO Gallery, 706 W Sheridan Ave., will host a reception at 6 p.m. Friday featuring live performances by Sugar Free Allstars, Spaghetti Eddie, and The Flukes.
The park will remain open noon to 5 p.m. every Saturday. Admission to the festival and to the park is free. Friday's festival will feature an Elvis Presley theme, with Elvis tribute band Mike Black & the Stingrays performing at 6 p.m. at Dunlap Codding, a patent, trademark and copyright law firm at 609 W Sheridan Ave. The district will host a velvet Elvis scavenger hunt.