This year is the 35th edition of the Main Street Arts Festival. After canceling two years in a row because of COVID-19, organizing and coming back was like clockwork, spokeswoman Claire Armstrong said.
The festival, which holds room for 200 artist spots, saw a decrease in artist applications from 1,400 to about 1,000, which Armstrong said is likely due to some artists not ready to travel yet.
Opening day is typically the slowest day because of work and school, she said, but Thursday had more people than usual.
Artists booths, food vendors, live music and other entertainment line Main Street from the Fort Worth Convention Center to the Tarrant County Courthouse.
This year also marks the first year of Sundance Square’s Fort Worth Art Fair, hosted in Sundance Square Plaza. The fair consists of two main tents along with live music on the plaza stage and a VIP area offering special tastings and private spaces away from crowds.
The Fort Worth Art Fair was created to showcase local artists and galleries in Fort Worth.
Ruth Meharg, Fort Worth Art Fair deputy director, said during the pandemic Sundance Square started a grant program for local artists who lost work and realized, through the volume of applications, how much local talent exists in Fort Worth.
“Sundance has been really trying to work with local artists and promote local artists,” she said. “We have a great art community here in Fort Worth, but, as an artist, if there aren’t opportunities for you, you’re going to move to New York or [Los Angeles] or someplace else, and we want to keep those artists here. We want to keep that community here in Fort Worth.”
Most of the work shown at the Fort Worth Art Fair consists of Fort Worth-based art, along with national artists from a gallery based out of Fort Worth.
Bale Creek Allen, whose contemporary art gallery is located at 400 Houston St., featured works from his gallery along with his own work at the Fort Worth Art Fair.
He said the idea for the fair started three months ago with Sasha Bass, Allen and a few other Fort Worth artists.
“This fair is, what it’s about is giving Fort Worth the real presence and letting people know what Fort Worth has to offer,” Allen said. “So we’re planting a seed and we’re doing it in a really big way. We’re hoping, this is the inaugural show, we’ll grow larger and larger to become a contemporary art fair that is bigger and better every year.”
In previous years, the Main Street Arts Festival used to use Sundance Square Plaza, situated in the middle of Main Street, as a location for around 50 artist booths. This year Armstrong said they weren’t able to lease the plaza because of the Fort Worth Art Fair, happening the same days as the festival Thursday through Sunday.
“We don’t see it as a competition with Main Street,” Meharg said when asked whether the timing was incidental or coincidental. “What we see is that they’re bringing all these national people and we wanted, while the whole city of Fort Worth is here, let’s show them the local artists that we have also.”
Main Street Arts Festival features national, regional and local art with an Emerging Artists category for Fort Worth-based artists.
Armstrong said it takes several months to plan the logistics of the festival, from safety, security and site planning, and the quick turnaround of the Fort Worth Art Fair added unknown factors to those plans.
While the Fort Worth Art Fair was created to center around local artists, Armstrong said the Main Street Arts Festival has always had Fort Worth-based artists showcase their work.
Fort Worth artist Tom Diel of Thomas Diel Designs showcased his work at the festival and won Best Emerging Artist in 2011. After his success, Diel quit his full-time job and opened a studio on Vickery Boulevard.
Coming to the Main Street Arts Festival gives Diel the opportunity to showcase his work to thousands of people. He said he is able to make about half his year’s earnings from the four-day event, from onsite purchasers to commission requests from people who saw him at the festival.
Fort Worth resident Irene Fosdick said having the Main Street Arts Festival return was like a breath of fresh air as wind gusts ruffled her hair.
Fosdick said she’s come out to the festival for several years, usually going on the first day when it’s less crowded. She said she recognized a lot of the artists from years past.
Sitting on a bench in Sundance Square Plaza, Fosdick said she visited the Fort Worth Art Fair but wasn’t impressed.
“With as many museums and everything that we have in Fort Worth and the Cultural District, it’s not as exciting as it’s been other years, this whole area,” she said.
Usually people would hang around the plaza area visiting more artist booths, Fosdick said. This year, despite live entertainment on the plaza stage, she didn’t see a lot of people spending time there.
Sundance Square Plaza was roped off along the sides with two openings on either side of Main Street to allow for through foot traffic.
Fort Worth resident Don Wheeler said he’s come to opening day of the Main Street Arts Festival every year since it started and was sad when it got canceled twice.
The downtown setting and time of year is what he said makes the festival special, along with seeing the various artists while enjoying the food and music.
Wheeler came to the festival with Cassie Wheeler and both walked through the Fort Worth Art Fair. Although it was small, Cassie Wheeler said she thought the local-based artwork was great and high quality. Wheeler said having the fair in the middle of the festival didn’t bother him in the least.
“There’s plenty of room for everybody out here,” he said. “Some of the artists that might have been on the square are now on the side streets or here in the intersection, so there’s plenty of room to move stuff around.”
This story was originally published April 7, 2022 5:38 PM.