By: Shilo Urban
If recent years are any indication, tens of thousands of people will gather in Downtown Fort Worth, April 9-12, for the 30th MAIN ST. Fort Worth Arts Festival.
The largest art festival in Texas—spanning 25 blocks from the Tarrant County Courthouse to the Fort Worth Convention Center—MAIN ST. is free and open-to-the public.
This year’s event is presented by Andrews Distributing Co. and produced by Downtown Fort Worth Initiatives, Inc. (DFWI).
The MAIN ST. Fort Worth Arts Festival is DFWI’s way of welcoming the community back to downtown, says Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth, Inc. and Downtown Fort Worth Initiatives, Inc.
“For many, it’s a fun-filled annual reintroduction to the center city,” Taft says. “Each year people come downtown and are surprised to see the new hotels, residences, office buildings, retailers, restaurants and entertainment venues that have been added since their last visit. It’s a great way to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors back to one of the best downtowns in America…and our hope is that they will come back again and again throughout the year.”
Larry Anfin, chairman of the Festivals and Events Committee for Downtown Fort Worth Initiatives, Inc., says that three decades ago, the hope was to create a festival that would transform downtown into an outdoor gallery and concert stage. “Not only has it come to life, but has exceeded what anyone thought was possible,” Anfin says.
MAIN ST. provides a showcase for 220 juried, hand-selected artists—the cream of the crop—from across the nation, throughout its four days. Highly competitive, less than 14 percent of the 1,345 artists who applied were selected to exhibit at MAIN ST. this year.
Festival organizers estimate more than $4.6 million worth of art will be sold across 15 mediums, including ceramics, jewelry, mixed media, printmaking, digital, fiber, leather, painting, sculpture, drawing/pastels, glass, metalwork, photography and wood.
MAIN ST. welcomes back Austin resident, Jeffrey Cannon, who won 2014 Best of Show for his drawing and pastels.
Fort Worth’s Pamela Summers, 2014 Merit Award-winner for ceramics, returns this year. Summers has created several outdoor ceramic mosaic murals in Fort Worth. In Sept. 2014, she completed the design and installation of a 233-foot recycled glass tile mosaic reflecting the natural prairie grasses and flowers native to Grand Prairie, which can be viewed from I-30. Fort Worth mixed media artist, Thomas Diel, who won the 2014 Juror Award, also returns for the 2015 show.
Other returning artists from the area include: Rebecca Villarreal, Mixed Media, Bryan; Seth Vandable, Sculpture, Cedar Hill; Raymond Rains, Glass, Fort Worth; David Conn, Printmaking, Fort Worth; Anne Cubbage, Mixed Media, Arlington; Paul Ernest, Digital, McKinney; and Gregory Story, Ceramics, Fort Worth native and Chicago resident.
Area Emerging Artists include: Robin Winters, Photography, Weatherford; Karen Walker, Pottery, Kopperl; Craig Vandeman, Metalwork, Irving; Charles Stanley, Photography, Azle; Jorge Fernandez, Painting, Arlington; and Jessica Bates-Grabowski, Sculpture, Arlington.
In addition to being the city’s largest arts festival, MAIN ST. is also Fort Worth’s largest music festival. More than 100 local, regional and national musicians will perform on three stages for the four-day event.
Foodies can experience a taste of Fort Worth from Riscky’s BBQ, Bobby Fajitas and Thai Tina’s. Other options are The Original Corn Roast, Fletcher’s Corny Dogs, Lone Star Cinnamon Roasted Nuts and Schmidt’s of German Village.
New this year is an offering of the best local and national craft brews in draught-form at MAIN St.’s Craft Brew Garden. Wine enthusiasts will enjoy the Times Ten Cellars Wine Experience, where sommeliers will conduct tasting events.
In the spirit of ‘something for everyone,’ the festival provides activities for kids of all ages, including balloon designing, fish printing, face painting, caricatures, ceramic tile painting, mural walls, rock climbing, jewelry designing, sand art and much more.
“There are always challenges coming into an urban environment and closing streets, rearranging traffic and then setting up an entire theme park that was nonexistent 12 hours before,” says longtime MAIN ST. Producer Jay Downie. “Under those dynamics, you have some very interesting and fun things that happen throughout the course of the weekend. What we try to do from 9th St. to Weatherford—which is our footprint—is to have people really see downtown Fort Worth in its finest fashion.”
This event could not take place without the hard work of more than 1,200 volunteers, says Anfin. “It’s a lot of work, and it’s not all about the chairman. We have one of the best volunteer management teams out there. They make it look easy, and they really care about the event. Their hearts are in it.”
The 65-member leadership team takes on every aspect of the event—from concessions to trash, to artists, to layout and logistics, set up and take down.
“They work all year, and then they all come together during that week of MAIN ST.,” says Taft. “It doesn’t magically appear. It all has to be installed and then disappear before people come to work on Monday morning,” he said.
MAIN ST.’s beginnings to the early 1980s set in motion a campaign of urban revitalization in the Central Business District. As momentum began to build, businessman Robert Bass spearheaded the initial effort in 1986 to create an event showcasing the attractions of the city’s awakening downtown core. The inaugural festival was a three-day event involving 140 artists, 60 performance groups and 600 volunteers. Attendance was approximately 80,000.
For more information about MAIN ST. Fort Worth Arts Festival, visit MainStreetArtsFest.org.
By: Shilo Urban