Preview: OKC's annual Paseo Arts Festival adds third stage in 43rd year
An abbreviated version of this story appears in Friday's Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.
Paseo Arts Festival takes The Plunge: Long-running event adding a new stage inside multi-use center
The word on the street is that the Paseo Arts Festival is adding a new stage for its 43rd edition.
Along with its longstanding North and South outdoor stages, the Memorial Day weekend tradition is expanding indoors into The Paseo Plunge multi-use center, inspired by the application by a poetry group called Poetic City.
“The application for the festival is just performers. It’s usually bands, but we have dancers. It’s just whatever performance, see if it fits. We had that group apply, and I just thought we should have a stage that was more focused on spoken word acts,” said Paige Powell, development manager for the Paseo Arts Association, which organizes the festival.
“What’s been going on at The Plunge is they’ve really activated that space. They have an open mic every Sunday. Then, they did a variety show with a musician, a poet, storytellers … and it ended up being standing-room-only. And it was such a cool experience. … I thought that was an area of talent we could really tap into and highlight at the arts festival so we have all kinds of different forms of art.”
Showcasing an array of art forms is one of the goals of the 43rd Annual Paseo Arts Festival, which will feature almost 100 visiting artists, plus dozens of neighborhood artists, along with 50-plus Oklahoma entertainers, 20 food vendors, two children's art areas and more Saturday through Monday in the Paseo Arts District, between NW 28 and Walker and NW 30 and Dewey.
Admission is free. Free parking is offered at First Christian Church, NW 36 and Walker, with a Village Tours & Travel bus running a continuous loop between the church and the festival grounds.
“The festival … bringing people to the Paseo has been an excellent way to get people to know where we are. Most people just wouldn’t across the Paseo Arts District if they were driving down the street because it’s kind of secluded. It’s in a little niche,” said Paseo Arts Association Executive Director Amanda Bleakley, adding that volunteers are still needed for the event.
“So, we love the fact that the festival brings thousands of people to the area, that every year more and more people learn about who we are and what we do down here.”
The historic arts district has experienced a boom in the past few years, giving it plenty of new restaurants and businesses to show off to festivalgoers.
With the state’s new liquor laws, the festival also will have new refreshments on sale in its beverage tent, including strong beers, craft brews and spiked seltzer.
“This is a fundraiser for us. The beverages that we sell during the festival, the proceeds go directly to the Paseo Arts Association, as well as the T-shirt sales and poster sales. So, that’s an important aspect,” Bleakley said, adding that festival proceeds fund Paseo events like the summer Fairy Ball, Magic Lantern Halloween celebration and monthly First Friday gallery walks.
As the 2019 event’s featured artist, Denise Duong, proprietor of the district’s Little D Gallery, created a whimsical design featuring the Paseo’s distinctive buildings and colorful characters for the festival’s T-shirts and posters.
“I’m extremely exhausted by the end of the day, but during the whole experience, it’s just like a big party,” Duong said of the festival. “You can kind of just run off of that … so everybody’s in good spirits.”
Not only are the district’s numerous art galleries and studios open special hours during the festival, but more than 90 juried artists from across the state and country also will be showing and selling their wares at booths set up on Paseo Drive, which is closed for the event.
“We’re a sought-after arts festival,” said festival chairman Collin Rosebrook, adding that green flags designate the juried festival artists. “Artists really like to come here, not just because they sell well, but just because it’s a great vibe.”
Variety is one hallmarks of the festival, with the artists’ offerings ranging from paintings, ceramics and photography to woodworking, sculpture and jewelry. The free Artists of the Future tent, in front of Contemporary Art Gallery, offers various children’s art activities, including the ever-popular spin art, while the free Paper Play Theatre inside Theatre Upon a StarDanceSwan will give youngsters the chance to create paper characters and tell stories with them.
Apart from the Paseo’s many restaurants, festival food vendor will sell goodies ranging from Indian tacos and roasted corn to steak on a stick and veggie lo mein.
The eclectic approach extends to the live entertainment. In addition to the coffeehouse vibe on the new Plunge Stage, the festival will feature rock, pop, Americana, funk, jazz and the blues on its two outdoor stages.
“This year, we have about half the people haven’t been here before. We have people that have been coming for decades; Melanie Tucker on the North Stage has been here for like 25 years,” Powell said.
“Then, we have a lot of new interest and new talent, and I can’t add any more timeslots. I have tried. I added six last year; there’s no more room. So, I’m really pleased with the variety and the quality that we see in those applications. It’s exciting to have so many people that really want to be down here and get to be exposed to an audience that doesn’t normally get to hear them.”
43rd annual Paseo Arts Festival
When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with live music until 10 p.m., and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday.
Where: Paseo Arts District, between NW 28 and Walker and NW 30 and Dewey.
Parking: Free parking and shuttle service will be available at First Christian, NW 36 and Walker. Shuttle hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday Sunday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday.
Information: 525-2688 or www.thepaseo.org.