A version of this story appears in the Sunday Oklahoman.
Festival of the Arts Sculpture Park carves out more colorful look in Oklahoma City
The long-running celebration of the visual, performing and culinary arts begins Tuesday in downtown Oklahoma City.
The Festival of the Arts is carving out a new look for one of its standing attractions.
When the festival starts Tuesday, people will find a new splash of color and a strong showcase of Oklahoma artists in the festival Sculpture Park, again situated on the southeast lawn of Stage Center.
“I think it’s going to look really cool and different,” said Festival Director Angela Cozby. “Sculpture is typically bronze or wood. They’re always large, but they’re not typically very colorful. So, we’re excited to add some color, along with this wonderful curated exhibit … with these wonderful local artists.”
The 48th Annual Festival of the Arts is set for 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 27 at Festival Plaza, on Hudson Avenue and at Myriad Gardens.
Organized by the Arts Council of Oklahoma City, the six-day event annually brings in more than 200 visual artists from across Oklahoma and the country, about 200 Sooner State entertainers staging a wide range of live performances and 30 food vendors who will be cooking up tastes from around the world.
Tony Morton, gallery director for Paseo Originals Art Gallery, is stepping in as the new curator for the Sculpture Park. This year, the familiar area will feature the work of nearly 20 Oklahoma artists, including seven festival newcomers and returning favorites like David Phelps, Dean Imel and Joe Slack.
“I wanted to display as great of range of work as possible … and the work that’s been chosen canvases from very contemporary to very primitive to expressive forms. Things that are very subtle and things which are very bold,” Morton said.
The new curator pared down the selection in the park to about 45 freestanding works, plus an installation by Imel, and the sculpture tent has been slimmed to less than 30 pieces.
Morton said he focused on creating interesting contrasts without having pieces work against each other — and he doesn’t mind if visitors get a bit of visual whiplash when they wander through the area.
“Part of my style as a gallerist is definitely eclectic,” he said. “It’s going to be challenging to make it all work together … and I’m just hoping that it will bring in a lot of life and energy.”
Along with sculptors, Morton recruited Plaza District aerosol artists Tanner Frady and Jason Pawley to paint six 8-foot-by-4-foot art walls specifically for this year’s Sculpture Park.
“I wanted something to help create a natural flow. I wanted something to identify that it was in fact the Sculpture Park, and a portion of the wall sections will have identifying lettering,” Morton said.
“I also wanted to bring some color to that area. You know, Stage Center is an amazing historic building; it is a sculpture in itself to stare at. And therein lies part of the problem: When people look at that corner, it really doesn’t matter how many things you put in front of that building, a lot of times they’re going to end up looking at the building. And I wanted to do something to bring those eyes down … and keep them at ground level to draw people in there.”
The art walls also will provide a showcase for a couple of talented young locals working in an art form that is increasingly popular in Oklahoma City: aerosol art.
“Both artists that have been chosen work inside the fine art realm as well as the street art realm, and that’s part of why I chose them,” Morton said. “They’re very diverse style-wise, but they both work in very vivid colors. They’ve worked together on a great deal of projects, and their work is very organic.”
Because of the illegality of graffiti, spray paint still carries a stigma, Cozby said, but it has emerged as a primary medium for many young artists and can be used to create fine art.
“Jason’s amazing, I’ve known him for years, and I have four or five of his paintings,” she said. “It’s very colorful what he does, and yes, he uses spray paint. … And it’s just beautiful the way it hits the wood and what he does with it.”
Plus, festivalgoers will get a chance to see Frady create his aerosol art during a pop-up painting demonstration from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday outside of the South Hudson Uncorked wine area.
Their painted art walls also will be marked with social media tags Morton hopes will help draw attention to the revamped Sculpture Park.
“There’s 600,000 people that enter that area every year,” Morton said. “If one in every 10 of those people likes to break out their camera phone and take a photo, and one in every let’s say 50 of those people decides they want to use those social media tags, that’s going to be some real trackability for the Sculpture Park. It will show them how receptive the community is to things like this, which I would love to see more of in our downtown.”
IF YOU GO
FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS
•Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 27.
•Where: In Festival Plaza, on Hudson Avenue and at Myriad Botanical Gardens.
•Admission: Free. Pets are not allowed.
•Information: 270-4848 or www.artscouncilokc.com.