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ArtsFest on Walnut Street Celebrates 35 Years This Weekend

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(Poster design courtesy www.springfieldartsfest.org)
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Artsfest on Walnut Street, the annual arts festival on Historic Walnut Street, is celebrating 35 years of art, food, fun and spring-time this weekend.  It takes place Saturday and Sunday May 2 & 3 on Historic Walnut Street between Hammons Parkway and National Avenue. This year's festival features 130 artists from 16 states, over 80 performances, local food and more.  As Springfield Regional Arts Council Executive Director Leslie Forrester says, "it's chock-full.  You can't make a step without finding some sort of arts experience--whether it be a performance or visual art."

New to ArtsFest this year is the Ozarks Gallery, which Leslie describes as a "new space for local artists--artists who have never shown on Walnut Street for ArtsFest.  So this year we have 14 artists participating, a lot of big local names that we all know: Doug Erb, Alice Cox, M. Scott Pfifer, Micah Aton, Barbara Williams, and many others. And it's a huge range of artwork, from photography to colorful abstracts to collage. So a little bit for everybody."

That's in addition to the Live Art Area, which this year represents a new partnership with Springfield-Greene County Library District to promote a "Flash Fiction Contest" as part of the Library's "One Read" Celebration themed around the Lois Lowry novel The Giver." Leslie Forrester explains, "We had local writers submit 250-word short stories. And on Walnut Street several local artists will be illustrating these stories"--including Megann Rosen O'Neill, Pam RuBert and others. "Then we'll take those panels to The Creamery for an exhibition that opens next week (Friday May 8 at 6:00pm, running through May 29)--and then they're going to tour it around the library system as well."

In addition to the many artists, performers and vendors, ArtsFest always features an interactive kids' area, with activities for children including the popular Springfield Pottery Claymobile, a mobile ceramic-arts workshop, a "Chalk-It-Up" chalk-art area, and a special hands-on activity for the kids, says Leslie Forrester. "It's fun--we're decorating rocks... which may not sound fun, but it's kind of a throwback activity, making little rock people. It's kind of been a fun project for the staff to try out--we've been making our own samples as well."

The organizers couldn't ask for better weather for this year's ArtsFest.  As Leslie notes, "It traditionally rains at some point on the (ArtsFest) weekend, as we all know.  But all the weather forecasts I've seen--and I've checked a lot!--it's supposed to be beautiful and sunny, mid-to-upper 70s."

Show hours are 10am-6pm on Saturday and 10am-5pm on Sunday.  As the largest fine arts festival in Southwest Missouri, Artsfest on Walnut Street attracts over 20,000 people annually--and given the above weather forecast they may exceed that number this year. Advance tickets for Artsfest are now available for $3 at Springfield McDonald’s restaurants. Tickets will be $5.00 at the gate; children 5 and under are free. For more information on the festival  including a full list of artists and performers visit www.springfieldartsfest.org. Artsfest is a Springfield Regional Arts Council event and is managed by the Urban Districts Alliance.

Randy Stewart joined the full-time KSMU staff in June 1978 after working part-time as a student announcer/producer for two years. His job has evolved from Music Director in the early days to encompassing production of a wide range of arts-related programming and features for KSMU, including the online and Friday morning "Arts News." Stewart assists volunteer producers John Darkhorse (Route 66 Blues Express), Lee Worman (The Gold Ring), and Emily Higgins (The Mulberry Tree) with the production of their programs. He's also become the de facto "Voice of KSMU" in recent years due to the many hours per day he’s heard doing local station breaks. Stewart’s record of service on behalf of the Springfield arts community earned him the Springfield Regional Arts Council's "Ozzie Award" in 2006.