GUIDE: Oklahoma Art Festivals

by Molly Evans


Oklahoma is filled to the brim with visual and performance art events—enough to occupy nearly every weekend of your summer. From honeysuckle basket weaving to Shakespeare in the Park, there’s a taste of culture in Oklahoma that could trigger any art lover’s appetite. Let us know where you’re headed this season to support your local artists.

SunFest, May 30-June 1
Like any good arts festival, SunFest in Bartlesville puts its local artists and vendors at the forefront. All items—paintings, sculptures, drawings, wearable art, stained glass, wooden crafts and toys—are handmade. However, “local” art could take on a new meaning with this year’s theme, “Take the Journey,” celebrating international culture and diversity. Once you’ve perused every arts and crafts booth, the spectacle of SunFest continues with a car show, live music, a 5k race, Youthfest, SunFest’s Got Talent and the “World’s Largest Water Gun Fight.”

Oklahoma Chautauqua: World War I, June 3-21
If you could meet Edith Wharton, Henry James or Teddy Roosevelt, what would you ask them? Well, see what they’d say at this year’s Oklahoma Chautauqua: A Crisis of Confidence: The War That Changed The World. A combination of performance art and historical narrative, the event will host several scholars who will give presentations as characters circa World War I. The festival is stopping in three cities this summer: Lawton, June 3-7; Tulsa, June 10-14; and Enid, June 17-21.

Red Earth Festival, June 5-7
Relocated to Remington Park, Oklahoma City’s horseracing facility, the 28th Red Earth Festival will open the gates at 6:30 p.m. for an art preview. The festival boasts an array of contemporary renditions of traditional Native American art, like beadwork, basketry, jewelry, pottery and more. But the Native American spirit transcends merchandise with the new Red Earth Fancy Dance Competition. Masters of the men’s “Fancy War Dance” and the women’s “Fancy Shawl” will perform in full regalia for the competition. Venture to the Red Earth schedule of events to see what’s in store each day of the festival.

Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park: Twelfth Night, June 5-26
Forget the Globe. OKC’s Myriad Botanical Gardens Water Stage will serve as an ideal venue for Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the production opening the 30th anniversary season for Oklahoma’s Shakespeare in the Park. General admission is $15, unless you’re a student, senior, or military member; then you’ll get a $5 discount. The show begins at 8 p.m. on June 5, 6, 7, 12, 20, 21, 24, 25, and 26. Here’s the rest of the seasonAntony and Cleopatra, July 3-18; Pericles, July 24-Aug. 3; and Macbeth, Sept. 11-27.

Quilt Tulsa, June 6-7
Does life imitate art or does art imitate life? Maybe you’ll find the answer stitched into the seams of an intricately designed quilt. If not, there are other reasons to check out the short but sweet, Quilt Tulsa. There will be more than 450 quilts, an onsite boutique and sewing machine giveaways at Central Park within Tulsa’s Expo Square. You can get lost in the maze of quilts from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, or you can take classes from “The Liberated Quilter,” Gwen Marston and meet her on Thursday. There’s another quilt festival in Edmond, too.

Saturday, June 7 is packed with arts and crafts shows around the state:

Wood Carvers World, June 13-14
Whether you carve it, turn it, work it or burn it, wood is an artistic medium worth talking about. You can do that at Wood Carvers World fest the second weekend in June. Woodworking professionals from across a seven-state area will be onsite to give tips and advice to interested visitors as young as 13 during several seminars. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Union High School’s UMAC (multipurpose activity center), and admission is $4.

Rock, Mineral, Fossil & Jewelry Show, July 11-13
If you’ve maintained your rock collection since childhood, you should bring it to the Rock, Mineral, Fossil and Jewelry Show at Tulsa’s Central Park Hall. Experts will help identify your rocks, and then you can see what other fossils and minerals are native to Tulsa. Here’s a similar festival in Tahlequah in August.

 OCTAFest, July 10-13
Hopefully, you can make both Tulsa’s rock festival and this Oklahoma Community Theatre Association Festival in Duncan, happening the same weekend. OCTAFest invites productions from community theaters around the state to perform in one location, this year being Duncan’s Simmons Center. The plays will be judged and selected by visiting jurors to potentially move on to regional and national theater festival competitions held later in the year. Read more on the history of the festival, this year’s entries and ticket prices.

Oklahoma City Storytelling Festival, August 21-23, Oklahoma History Center
The festival’s been around for more than 30 years, and it celebrates one of the oldest art forms of human existence. The OKC Storytelling Festival invites professional storytellers from all over the world. The festival will continue its own tradition with three entertaining evening performances, a family matinee and professional workshops, but the event will take place in a new venue, the Oklahoma History Center, location at 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive. The 2014 featured tellers are Donald Davis, Syd Lieberman, Bil Lepp and Lynette Ford. Read up on the tellers before August arrives.

Ponca City Fine Arts Festival, 
Sept. 6-7, Ponca City 
In its 40th year, the Ponca City Fine Arts Festival is a two-day juried show, held at The Ponca City Art Center, located in the historic Soldani Mansion. Cash prizes will be awarded to first through third places winners, who will be selected by Jim Bray, a professor and retired head of Missouri Southern in Joplin. For artists who wish to participate in the juried show, they can submit their work by Friday, June 27. For those just wanting to browse, admission is free and activities begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday. Check out the art center’s brochure (PDF) to learn more details about the festival and submission process.
First Friday Art Walks
First Fridays have populated the state with individual communities celebrating their local artists and vendors each month. Live music, free stuff and open doors usually accompany these events, so choose a town and a weekend to see what First Fridays are all about.

Norman does the same thing on the second Friday of each month.