As seen in today's Urban Tulsa Weekly... (Photos by Don Emrick, courtesy www.bluedomeartsfestival.com)
In 2001, a group of 20 artists gathered in the courtyard of fellow artist Virginia Harrison's Owen Park home for the First International Clayfest. Little did they know that, eight years later, their little gathering would grow into a major arts event, attracting hundreds of artists and thousands of visitors.
The Blue Dome Arts Festival, which occupies First and Second Streets at Elgin and Detroit of the Blue Dome District this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, began because local artists wanted to devise a way to be part of Mayfest, a 37-year-old arts and music festival that infiltrates downtown Tulsa each spring.
Mayfest attracts hundreds of artists from all over the country. They're selected by a jury to show work at the festival. In 1982, Mayfest incorporated the Invitational Gallery in order to accommodate more local artists in the festival. Those artists are juried as well, and with about 100 spots available, admission into the gallery is competitive.
"Local artists were frustrated that they couldn't get into the gallery because of the competition," said Harrison, who works in ceramics and glass. "There are so many artists in Tulsa, and they needed to be able to show their work. We realized that people really want to see local artists' work."
Those artists decided to hold their festival at the same time as Mayfest because, Harrison said, people were excited about art during Mayfest. They encouraged people to stop by their festival once they'd left downtown.
In only two years, Clayfest outgrew Harrison's back yard, so she approached developer Michael Sager, who owns much of the property in downtown's Blue Dome District, about having their event in that area. He loved it, and since 2003, the Blue Dome Arts Festival has steadily grown, both in number of participants and patrons.
Harrison said she's learned something about hosting the festival every year, and she understands how Mayfest started out as a small celebration of artists and grew into a massive event.
In fact, her hope for the future is that Blue Dome Arts Festival and Mayfest meld into one large, arts-lovin' event. Whether that will happen or not remains to be seen, but the two festivals' organizers work in tandem with one another to ensure that both festivals are well-attended and achieve their missions of celebrating and proliferating art.
More than 100 artists will set up booths at this year's Blue Dome Arts Festival, and an additional 30 or so can set up in the festival's space for Emerging Artists. The Emerging Artists area is dedicated to young artists who've perhaps never participated in a festival before and aren't quite sure how. They can set up for free, learn a bit from veteran Blue Dome artists, and then perhaps set up their own booths next year.
In addition to the Emerging Artists area, the festival has added an Emerging Musicians element to the festival, allowing young, burgeoning musicians to set up and play on Blue Dome's stage in between scheduled musical acts.
Tulsa's own Hanson will make a stop at the Blue Dome district at 11am on Sat., May 16. The band will conduct a mile-long segment of its "The Walk Tour," which supports the new album, The Walk. The tour is fighting poverty and AIDS in Africa.
For a complete list of artists and musicians who'll be at the festival, visit www.bluedomeartsfestival.com.
Though the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa sponsors the Blue Dome Arts Festival and area restaurants and business contribute to its success, it's still very much a grassroots event, organized entirely by volunteers.
And while Mayfest still attracts more artists and seems to earn artists more money for their work, many of the artists exhibiting in Mayfest's Invitational Gallery will also have booths at Blue Dome Festival, including Harrison. The artists at Blue Dome Festival are generally younger, emerging artists, giving the entire festival a more bohemian feel.
The festival is open Friday, from 12-9pm; Saturday, from 10am to 8pm; and Sunday from 10am to 4pm.Virginia Harrison gave me a certificate for two free gyros and two free pieces of make-and-take art from Tulsa Stained Glass Co. to give away to two readers. One reader will win the gyros and one will win the stained glass art. To win, leave a comment telling me your favorite aspect of the Blue Dome Arts Festival. The winners will be chosen at random at 9am Thursday, May 14. Good luck!