Local festival shines light on artists and community collaboration


WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - Art and music are coming together June 24 to show off some local talent and the charm of Downtown Wichita Falls.

The Art & Soul Festival will bring the streets of downtown alive for the third year in a row. Those who are putting on the event say it is not only vital to the growth of downtown but also for local artists.

Saturday night on Ohio Avenue between 8th and 9th Street there will be live music, food and 30 artists all coming together to share their talent with the community and each other.

Jeanette Charos, with the Wichita Falls Downtown Development, said they started planning this event in January. She said it takes about two days to set up the tents, lights and everything else to make it happen.

Charos said the idea to bring a festival like this to the Falls started when a member of the city's Chamber of Commerce took a trip to the Big Easy.

"Anne Arnold-Ogden took a trip to New Orleans, saw the art scene there and wanted to bring that little piece of New Orleans to Wichita Falls," said Charos. "The lights, the arts, people out in the streets, so we are kind of recreating that in Wichita Falls with our own little flare to it."

Charos said Wichita Falls is full of great local talent, and this event highlights that.

"This festival gives them a platform to show their artwork to the community," said Charos.

She said it also allows those artists to network.

"We've seen a lot different collaborations and projects come out from artists who have met at the festival, so it is really neat," said Charos.

Just a few blocks away at 9th Street Studios one project is proof of that.

The Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture is using donated fence pickets to give everybody the chance to show off their artistic side, in a project called "Don't Fence Me In."

Erick Zambrano, with the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture, said it is a great opportunity for the city's youth.

"I don't think we give kids enough of a chance to be themselves and discover themselves, and art is the best vehicle for that," said Zambrano.

At the Farmers Market during The Art and Soul Festival those who come out can do just that.

"We're inviting kids, and parents, and anyone to come together in this community art project, and we're going to display them all together in the same place," said Zambrano.

The "Don't Fence Me In" project will be revealed on July 15 near Kell East and Kell West, at Austin Street downtown.

Zambrano said that is what makes this art installation and the Art & Soul Festival so special.

"Is now we are actually coming out and being a community, and coming together for these big art projects and for these big celebrations like Art & Soul," said Zambrano.

Teonna Belk, a local artist, said she enjoys events like this too.

"I'm really into the art scene and everything, and I have been to some of the shows downtown," said Belk. "I just really love how it brings people together and just how people really enjoy the culture of it."

A new downtown mural is also being unveiled during the festival. That is set to happen at 4:30 p.m. on Ohio Avenue. The festival is from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Those who work with Wichita Falls Downtown Proud are expecting this year's Art & Soul Festival to bigger and better than the last. They are hoping to see about 3,500 people come out.

Revenue from the event will go to projects like adding benches and bike racks to the streets of downtown.

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