By RENEE FITE
Arts on the Avenue, Tahlequah’s only fine arts festival, is one of several events putting the city on the destination map.
About 100 regional painters, sculptors, potters, musicians, singers, dancers and artists of all kinds will entertain and offer their best artistic endeavors for sale, on the Cherokee Courthouse Square, June 7-8.
This is the fifth year for the festival, and new activities are helping it grow.
“I’m excited for all the visual and performing artists to return to the event and to meet all the new artists,” said Donna Tinnin, one of event founders and a Cherokee Nation Community Tourism employee. “This year, authors will be represented at the art festival, and we are planning to have a Photo Walk.”
The artists are excited about the Purchase Award Certificates, Tinnin said.
“Individuals and businesses can buy the Purchase Awards in the amounts of $100, $250 and $500. Half of the amount is given in certificates for the sponsors to then purchase art from the artists during the event,” Tannin said. “It’s a great way to give back sponsorship money and allow the artists to sell more art.”
At the Cherokee Art Center, hands-on activities will allow visitors to make items such as baskets, mini-stickball sticks and other traditional items, she said.
On Friday night, the Wines on the Avenue event will take place from 5:30 to 8:30, with participating merchants on Main Street. During Wines on the Avenue, folks can still view the art and listen to music on the square.
Downtown events bring life to the community, said travel and vacation specialist Linda Spyres, who owns Vacations R Us and is also a Tahlequah city councilor.
“A town that has no downtown events dies a little at a time,” Spyres said. “Communities must be vibrant living organisms. Without the ‘happenings’ that are fun, we would definitely have less participation by our citizens.”
Artists look forward to the annual gathering, having the chance to sell their work and visit with friends.
“Arts on the Avenue is our chance of becoming a well-known progressive community in the state of Oklahoma,” said Molly Peterson, who markets the paintings of her husband, Jerald. “Downtown events are important for Tahlequah. We see ourselves as ‘progressive,’ but our choice of events will either confirm or deny this.”
An art event is especially desirable, she said, “because we can show a face of culture and learning to the members of a community that perhaps they haven’t been able accomplish on their own.”
It is a juried art show and top artists are invited to apply online. This is the only event in Tahlequah where shoppers and visitors will not find arts and crafts or local organizations or nonprofits lining the park. Food vendors will be providing tasty options, though.
“We are excited that this year, we’ll be able to present a show that is well-organized and cohesive. The artists are excited to be able to show their talents,” Peterson said.
They will have an opportunity to market their art to a small community, then branch out to other, larger shows, Peterson said.
“Most artists start out at local shows,” she said.
There is always the chance of selling, she added.
“Artists who do not sell their work get discouraged and some will quit,” she said. “A good way to encourage local artists is for the community – businesses, individuals – to purchase a piece from one of the Arts on the Avenue artists and proudly display it on their walls or living spaces. Knowing the artist who created the piece is special for the one who displays it.”
More than any other group, artists are suffering from the listless economy, Peterson said.
“It would be so encouraging for the public to stop and visit with the artists and purchase something they can afford,” she said.
Musicians were quick to respond this year when the call went out to sign up.
“What I, personally, am excited about this year is having the opportunity to play with the Northwest Arkansas Mandolin Orchestra on Saturday, at 2 p.m., and to give the local Tahlequah audience the opportunity to hear the sound that such an orchestra produces,” said Francie Fite. “It is a different sound, and is loved by many people once they hear it. We hope there may even be musicians in Tahlequah in the audience who would be interested in playing in such a group, once they hear the music.”
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