From Kimbrough to National Avenue, historic Walnut Street hosted booths full of original artwork, live performances by local musicians and people and dogs of all ages this weekend at the 39th annual Artsfest.
The two-day arts festival featured 125 artists, 60 musical performances and 20 non-profit organizations, according to Leslie Forrester, executive director of Springfield Regional Arts Council, who oversaw the event. She describes the event as being the kickoff to spring.
From Kimbrough to National Avenue, historic Walnut Street hosted booths full of original artwork, live performances by local musicians and peo…
“Walnut Street is such a beautiful place to be in the spring,” Forrester said. “There’s incredible architecture which ties right in to art and culture.”
Walking down the street, there are not only diverse types of art but a wide range of smells — from barbecue to Italian to Peruvian. Passing by the colorful historic homes, singer-songwriters, musical theater acts and rock bands can be heard.
There’s a dual nature to Artsfest — the festival aims to support the community as well as artists.
Artsfest is put on in conjunction with SRAC and the Downtown Springfield Association. In total, about 20 staff members between the SRAC and the DSA help put on the event, along with about 150 volunteers, according to Forrester.
The revenue is split between the two organizations.
The SRAC’s revenue is invested into programming, supporting local artists, managing the Creamery Arts Center and reinvesting into Artsfest for the coming year, Forrester said.
“A lot of it helps fund our arts education programs which are specifically targeted to students who are at-risk and would not be able to afford arts experiences otherwise,” Forrester said. “The proceeds ultimately are being reinvested back into the community.”
However, Forrester said the primary goal of the festival is to ensure that artists make sales.
“We want to support artists to do what they do best,” Forrester said. “We want Artsfest to be a good destination for visitors and artists because if we don’t have artists who want to come, we don’t have a festival.”
Hosting both local and regional artists, Forrester said a lot of the artists at Artsfest tour the festival scene professionally. Each artist booth is different — some showcase paintings while others display pottery, jewelry, screen prints or photography.
“It’s incredibly inspiring to see not only their incredible work that they create, but the true passion and dedication to make that art their life,” Forrester said. “It takes so much work to do that, to be able to be creative and also business-minded, to be able to run a business that’s profitable.”
Janey Greene is an artist from Baldwin City, Kansas. Nearly every painting in Greene’s booth incorporates red, gray and black, making each one stand out against the white canvas booth they hang upon.
“I’m self-taught, so I have a lot of clean lines and bold colors, and the nearest I can come is an art deco style because of those factors,” Greene said.
This was Greene’s first year selling her art at Artsfest in Springfield. She said the organizers were “wonderful.”
“Sometimes, I’ve been to shows where they kind of act like they’re doing you a favor for you to be there, and at this show, they value the artists being here,” Greene said. “I really like that attitude.”
Alicia Mau, Missouri State University alumna, was selling her art at Artsfest for the first time as well. She’s been selling art professionally for five years.
“I love how original everything is,” Mau said. “You don’t see a lot of commercially made things. This is real artwork here.”
In order to sell their art at the festival, artists must apply in January, provide photos of their work and be approved by a community jury. Artsfest typically receives around 300 applicants and chooses 125 artists, according to Rachel Johnson, director of exhibits and programming of SRAC.
“We make sure the work is original,” Johnson said. “We make sure it’s of high quality because we really want to showcase the best of the best.”
Aaron Inman, senior painting major at MSU, is a resident on Walnut Street. He said he’s enjoyed having the festival right outside his door.
“It’s interesting because I saw them last year, so to see them (the artists) come back and see the new work that they’ve done, kind of how they’ve progressed, I think is a great way to see local artists,” Inman said.
Inman describes the atmosphere of Artsfest as very easy-going.
“It seems like everybody’s here to have a good time,” Inman said.
Forrester said the demographic range of the festival is wide — from college students, to young couples, to retirees to people simply walking their dog. One artist kept a water bowl in her booth for festival-going dogs.
“We see a lot of young families with kids because we do specifically create activities for them,” Forrester said.
Johnson organized the kids area of the festival. The interactive kids area had crafts, games and giant bubble blowing.
“I would really like to see that grow,” Johnson said. “In the past, we’ve traditionally had just a kids craft. This year, I’m adding a couple big interactives.”
One interactive activity was a mural of blank faces where kids and families could use paint pens to add their own face to the mural.
In the future, Johnson said she’d like to add a kids art area to showcase blossoming young artists.
Forrester said SRAC wants Artsfest to become a destination for tourists and an attraction tool for people who might want to move to Springfield.
“We want you to always want come back and see what’s new,” Forrester said.