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Taste of the Arts

Arts United’s huge new festival showcases the arts… and some good food

By Jim Fester

Fort Wayne Reader


In a year of mergers, Arts United is bringing together several former Fort Wayne festivals into one free event. The new Taste of the Arts festival brings together food from the former Taste of Fort Wayne with entertainment and local talent of the Arts Unite event held during Three Rivers Festival. Like the old Franke Park Fine Arts Festival, there will be hands-on activities and the event will be held at different venues similar to Arts Crawl.

“We wanted to have a way to better promote the arts in Fort Wayne, to give them their own opportunity to shine,” says Tena Woenker of Arts United. “We had the entertainment stage at the Three Rivers Festival, and while that’s wonderful to be part of the Chalk Walk and Art in the Park, it kind of got lost there. Having this fundraiser is a great way of really showcasing the arts and exposing people to the wonderful arts we have here.”

The Taste of the Arts festival will be held in downtown Fort Wayne on Saturday, August 29th from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. A smaller event will begin at 4:30 to showcase local bands, ending the festival at 10 p.m. The whole event will encompass several blocks in the downtown cultural district.

And like we said above, the Taste of the Arts festival is free. Sponsors helped the committee meet their minimum goal to hold the event and to make the activities, performances and admission to all the venues available at no charge.

Free bus service will be available all day too. Citilink will be reimbursed for uncollected fares by Arts United’s Art as a Catalyst: Diversity Initiative, which is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The last bus leaves downtown at 5:15 p.m. on Saturdays. Free trolleys will carry patrons between venues during the festival. Tickets for food and beverages will be sold for $1 each.

Times are tough for the arts in Indiana; usual sources for funding such as endowments and foundations were not able to provide support this year, and the state’s art budget was cut by about 20%. “We felt the cuts last year, both locally from our fund drive and from the state funds that we distribute to the 10-county region,” Woenker says.

Arts United plans to use this event to raise money for new projects. This year, proceeds from food, beverage sales and goodwill donations will be used to start a new grant fund for schools to pay for field trip costs or artist-in-residencies that pay artists for special programs. If the festival raises enough this first year, Arts United will be able to offer the grants to schools next year and would look to raise matching funds to sustain the grants going forward.

Taste of the Arts festival planners see this event as a “win” for everyone. The goal is to offer a wide sampling of the arts to the community and enable arts organizations to share information about their programs. No less is the goal to create new grant funds to help arts and culture thrive in greater Fort Wayne. This first Taste of the Arts will provide more access for students to local cultural institutions and give area artists employment through residencies in schools. The menu samples from area restaurants are sure to please everyone too.

Last year, Arts United funded more than 50 organizations. Many of these groups are participating by giving performances on the Arts United Center stage or at a second outside stage on the Arts United plaza on Main Street. Performances will include the Fort Wayne Ballet, Fort Wayne Civic Theatre, Fort Wayne Dance Collective, Fort Wayne Taiko drummers, Troop Taleba belly dancers, the Heartland Chamber Chorale, and a Towns of Harmony quartet. There is a St. Francis School of Creative Arts exhibit inside, and indoor activities will include the Friends of the Philharmonic’s instrument playground and a dress up area with IPFW’s Community Arts Academy.

Friemann Square and Arts United Center plaza
Restaurants will be a highlight of the festival. Whether it’s the culinary art of entrees from the finest menus in town or traditional festival food, everyone is sure to find a sample to their taste among the 19 restaurants participating.

The Museum of Art will still be closed for construction so the mobile gallery will be on-site for the festival. More than 25 arts organizations will have displays and hands-on activities such as crafts, sing-alongs and poetry readings in Friemann Square. An Arts Market will be stationed around the plaza for more than a dozen local artists to sell their wares. Mad Anthony’s will serve beer, wine and food in the garden area and other food and beverage vendors will bridge the park and the plaza.

Barr and Berry Streets
Arts United annually provides operating support to ten leading diverse arts and cultural organizations including The History Center, which will be free and open to the public. Settler’s Inc. will be giving demonstrations on candle-making, basket weaving, spinning and more. They will also offer take-home crafts for hands-on activities.

Some activities from the History Center may overflow into the Barr Street Market. Several market vendors will participate for the duration of the festival and will become part of the full-day activities.

Berry and Clay Streets
All four groups housed in the Hall Community Arts Center will offer activities throughout the day. ARCH will give periodic preservation tours around downtown. The Dance Collective will be utilizing their dance studio space for workshops and performances. Cinema Center is offering short movies and Artlink will offer The Lake exhibit and an activity to make monotype self-portraits.

During the festival, from 11 to 4 p.m., several area high school “garage” bands will perform a variety of music from jazz to rock-n-roll on a stage in the Verizon parking lot by the Hall Community Arts Center, on Berry Street. Additional food and beverage vendors and a beer garden provided by Granite City will make the parking lot adjacent to the Hall building a hub of activity that extends beyond the festival hours.

After the Taste of the Arts festival
From 4:30 until 10, established local bands will take the stage by the Hall Community Arts Center. The performances are free, tickets for food and beverages will be $1 each. The evening line-up includes: The B-Sharps (garage rock), Lee Miles & The Illegitimate Sons (Americana) and Metavari (post-rock). Three more bands will be announced soon. Matt Kelley, of One Lucky Guitar, and Rich Lee of Little Brother Radio (and Cinema Center) are planning the evening music event to conclude the Taste of the Arts festival.

For more info, visit www.TasteoftheArtsFortWayne.org.

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©2018 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.