The month of May tends to wake up the world. We hose down the patio and spruce up the garden, we’re excited to mow the lawn for the first time (but dread the rest), we grill outside every chance we get, and trade jeans and boots for shorts and sandals. We look for every excuse to be outside.
The premier outdoor event that defines the start of summer is, undoubtedly, Artsfest on Walnut Street. For the last 43 years, thousands of people have gathered on Walnut Street to stroll, reconnect with friends, and peruse some of the finest art in the region. Artsfest is a juried show, and it features over 100 artist vendors from across the country, at least five of which are new this year. Far more apply to be part of it, but the selection process is stringent, so you know you’ll see top-notch creativity here.
The Springfield Regional Arts Council oversees the event, and organizers have managed to deliver a great weekend year after year. SRAC’s mission is to connect people with the arts, and in doing so supports visual, performing, literary, and media arts organizations in 27 counties.
If you traverse the Walnut Street area on a regular basis, you’ll know when this massive event is approaching. Streets are blocked off a day or so in advance, vendors begin to arrive and set up shop, and must-haves like porta-potties and hand washing stations are brought forth to make the 3-day event clean and comfortable. (FYI toilets can be located at JQH and Walnut, near Ebbets Field and across from the Show Wagon Stage on the east end toward National.)
As for the art on exhibit, you’ll get an eyeful of pottery, drawing, glass, jewelry, fiber, metal, painting, photography, printmaking, and woodworking. You can buy plants at Artsfest too, and in years past we’ve seen everything from bouquets to annuals to herbs to perennials on sale, ready to take home to your own backyard.
The list of food vendors is impressive and includes Jamaican Patty Co, Nana’s Kettle Corn, Lae’s Authentic Egg Rolls, Pineapple Whip, Xurro Handcrafted Spanish Donuts, Greek Belly, Crosstown BBQ, Spring Branch Kombucha, Jack’s Ice Cream and more. There’s literally something for everyone to enjoy as you stroll.
If it’s entertainment you’re looking for, you’ll find a wide variety on both days. There are 59 performances on tap this year, and you can see familiar local favorites like Jin J.X. and Shaun Munday on the University Plaza Stage, which is the west-most venue. Center Stage features Mark Barger, and Uke 66 among others. The Dance Stage offers everything from ballet to jazz to bhangra. These two venues can be found on the north side of Walnut in the middle of the action. The Show Wagon stage near National Avenue has an exceptionally wide variety of acts to choose from, including MSU’s flute choir, Springfield Little Theater, and even appearances by Princesses of the 417.
This year promises a few new surprises, including an interactive/collaborative art installation with Ozarks art collective Wonder Atelier, free hands-on tie-dye shirts for kids, reusable color-change cups for the water wagon, $20 t-shirts available with ticket purchase or available at the gate, and nine live artists who will create two pieces each—these will be on display at the Creamery Arts Center during the month of May.
Also, bring your furry friend! Artsfest is dog friendly as long as the dogs are indeed friendly, and all leashed up. As much fun as the art is the impromptu fashion parade. Artsfest isn’t at all a dressy affair, but it is decidedly bohemian in nature, with folks of all ages sporting everything from tie-dye and sandals to billowy summer dresses and hipster styles. Artsfest is great for people watching, so unleash that free spirit of yours and express yourself on Walnut Street… you’ll be glad you did.
Tickets are $5 at the gate and online, and children 5 and under get in free.
For more information:
For volunteer opportunities and a free Artsfest T-shirt: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/30e0a4cadad2ca4f49-artsfest9/116699125#/
Learn more about Artsfest and the Springfield Regional Arts Council: