Drawing attention to the arts with songs, crafts, chalk

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Musicians strummed passionately. Artists drew pensively. Actors performed zealously.

On Saturday afternoon, downtown Cape Girardeau became the colorful canvas for various art forms as the ArtsCape festival drew its highest attendance figures yet, with more than 2,000 people showing up at the fourth annual event.

"That's the most people we've had here in the four years by far," said Rebecca Fulgham, executive director of the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri. "Last year, we didn't really count, but it wasn't anywhere close to this. This is definitely our most successful year."

Crowds shuffled around the riverfront area in the parking lot across from Hutson's Furniture and arts council galleries all day, where they got to browse homemade crafts and see local musicians play, theater troupes perform on street corners and amateur chalk artists create vibrant images on the concrete.

"We do this to demonstrate that arts can be for everybody, whether you're art-inclined or not," Fulgham said. "I think everyone is having a great time."

The one drawback, she said, was that sales of the hand-crafted items weren't as good as the vendors had hoped.

"I wish that people would have purchased more from our fine arts and crafts vendors," she said. "That's our only complaint."

Michael Bricknell, 19, of Cape Girardeau, worked for more than four hours on his chalk rendition called "The Kiss," a rendering of two women in an embrace.

"It's a good opportunity for people to experience art for themselves," he said. "For artists, it's a good way to express themselves."

Freelance artist Craig Thomas oversaw the chalk drawing competition, which drew nearly 30 artists.

"This is a good way to bring artists together," Thomas said, taking a break from his own piece, which was something he saw on a tombstone. "There's not a whole lot of places where you can do that, not only in Cape, but anywhere."

Kelly Hughes of Jackson worked with 7-year-old daughter Sierra on a chalk drawing of a woman in a swimming pool.

"I love to be outside and I love to draw with chalk," she said. "I just enjoy the festival atmosphere."

Scott Kelley of Cape Girardeau won a first-place prize in the individual category for his drawing of a spicebush swallowtail butterfly. That got the freelance artist and Missouri Department of Conservation worker $50 and an oil paint set.

He worked on the drawing from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Kelley has gone to street festivals in Kansas City and other places and said Cape Girardeau's festival is coming along.

"Each year, more and more people are turning out," he said. "It's a promising event for sure."

But perhaps the biggest draw was ArtsCape's new attractions, Fulgham said, including children's activities and an entertainment tent.

"Those areas have really been swamped," she said.

The entertainment tent featured various musical acts throughout the day. The bands included The Suzuki All-Stars, the Southeast Brass Quintet, Doug Rees, Bruce Zimmerman, Bailey Jester and The Cantrells.

At one point in the hot, windy afternoon, a man sat quietly singing along as Zimmerman sang "The Tracks of My Tears."

The pavilion seemed largely set aside for children, with several arts-related activities such as face painting, sand art, jewelry making and weaving.

"This is such a great event," said Claudia Mueller of Cape Girardeau as she watched children make bracelets with beads. "I think they should do more stuff like this. I think it builds community spirit. And the kids' activities are always a good idea. It makes them part of things."

Christine Fadler of Jackson brought her daughter, Shelby, who is 9 years old. This was Fadler's first year to come to ArtsCape.

"That's one of the things that really brought me here, was the kids' activities," she said. "She loves doing arts and crafts."

Shelby agreed.

"It's very creative," she said. "And it's fun."

Fulgham said she feels like the festival has really hit its stride this year. In its first two years, she said, the event was tied in with the City of Roses music festival, which she said didn't appeal to the same people as an arts festival. Last year was the first year the event -- which is sponsored by the arts council and the down revitalization organization Old Town Cape -- was put on solely by its sponsors.

"Now we're really stretching out," she said. "It should continue to get better."

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