Coming to downtown: Threefoot Art Festival
By By Penny Randall / staff writer
Sept. 22, 2003
The organizers of a new downtown arts event, the Threefoot Art Festival, spoke last week with The Meridian Star's editorial board: Robert Bresnahan, festival chairman; Connie Royal, executive director of the Meridian Arts Council; Allan Stewart, president of BankPlus; and Debbie Martin of Cartmell Gallery.
The Meridian Star: Tell us where the idea for a fine art festival came from.
Robert Bresnahan: The idea is to promote art, No. 1, and to provide art for folks around here to buy, but also to promote beautiful downtown Meridian.
The Star: Is this one more thing leading up to the completion of the Opera House and Riley Education and Performing Arts Center?
Bresnahan: It's a showcase for all that. It's an attempt to bring fine artists to Meridian so they can make a living doing what they do best and to give these fine artists an idea what we have to offer.
Having an idea about an art festival is one thing, but being able to finance it is another. That's where BankPlus stepped in and provided us with a generous donation. We don't think we'll make a great deal of money off this the first year, being a first-year festival, so BankPlus is our major contributor.
Allan Stewart: This is another one of the individual efforts going on downtown to revitalize the downtown. The Meridian Council of Arts came up with this idea. I'm chairman of the Downtown Development Committee and we've been working on the same idea.
The Meridian Arts Council said, "Let's go ahead and try it now and get it started." It's excellent timing because we're about two to three years from having the Opera House completed and that will be the focus of attention when it's done.
In the meantime, we're gaining experience and and gaining recognition in the community and outside the community for this effort. The council wanted something that would complement the Arts in the Park effort, but be strictly fine arts we all worked together.
Royal: Hopefully this will be one of many steps forward. There are many other things in the planning stage. This is the first major cog in the wheel of a large pie of art for us to choose from.
The Star: This festival will showcase fine art, not arts and crafts. Who are some of the artists who will be exhibiting their work?
Bresnahan: Meridian will be well represented. We have people coming from as far away as Georgia, Knoxville, Tenn., and Texas fine artists from all over the South.
The way we look at this is, we've got two major goals as far as the art festival is concerned.
The first goal is to get fine artists here and then make sure they want to come back and that they tell their fellow artists. We want them to be able to sell art so we gotten various purchase awards. Individuals prior to the festival have committed to buying art. We've gotten about $4,500 that people have donated and said they will buy that much art. Through the generosity of BankPlus, we will have merit awards that will be handed out to the artists.
The other way we make sure they are satisfied is getting people to come down and view what is available and to buy the art. This is going to be one-of-kind type art and run the gamut from clay, metal, photography and mixed media to glass, wood, two-dimensional and jewelry.
You don't have to have a pocket full of money to buy something very special and something that you will treasure the rest of your life.
Debbie Martin: This festival is not to take away from our local artists in any way. This festival is our way of promoting art and getting people used to collecting art, and hopefully that in turn will increase the business for local artists and galleries.
The Star: Tell us about the other part of the festival, the entertainment.
Royal: Prior to the Capital City Stage Band and the Bluz Boys, we'll have The Caldwells, a blues/gospel group from West Point. We are going to have a little of every area of music.
Martin: We will also have food vendors. We encourage people to bring lawn chairs and just spread out and enjoy the music and the day.
Royal: The festival is free to the public.
The Star: You're starting off with a one-day event. Would you like it to expand to a weekend event?
Bresnahan: We're hoping that it will expand, but we want to tackle something that we know we can handle well and move on from there.
I think our goal is to have people all the way from 22nd Avenue to the lawn of City Hall with booths of one sort of another, to have people all the way to Fifth Street and bands playing in Dumont Plaza.
Royal: The Meridian Council for the Arts has had a successful Arts in the Park for 32 years. We would like for this to be equally successful and have as much longevity.
The Star: Artists had to apply to show their work at the festival. What was the process and who decided on what artists to invite?
Martin: We have a committee that reviewed all the slides or photographs that came in. We looked at the quality, composition and appeal to the public. We've got about 30 to 40 artists at this time who will show their work.
The Star: Why are you calling it the Threefoot Art Festival?
Martin: We thought of Front Street Festival and we thought of Fifth Street Festival. The way we thought of Threefoot Festival is because it's the tallest building in Meridian and you can see it from anywhere in Meridian.
Stewart: Besides that what other city can claim a Threefoot Art Festival?
Bresnahan: The idea is to have a festival that's synonymous with Meridian without using the word Meridian in the name. Plus, the building is such a beautiful building with all the art deco work on it. The logo with the three feet was done by Greg Cartmell.