The Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival returns for its 35th year this weekend, reviving a beloved downtown Fort Worth tradition that was canceled for the past two years due to COVID-19. The festival begins Thursday and runs through Sunday.
Thousands of visitors typically flock to the event, which features a juried art show, live music on four stages, an array of local cuisine ranging from barbecue to fajitas to corny dogs, and a variety of beverage offerings, including craft beer and wine tastings.
A re-imagined “Makers Zone” will offer a menu of engaging family-friendly activities.
More than 200 national, regional and local juried artists will display their works throughout 18 square blocks of downtown. The categories of artwork include sculpture, painting, photography, wood, glass, jewelry, metalwork, printmaking and mixed media.
Featured artists include back-to-back Best of Show winner Richard Wilson from Greenville, N.C.; metal-smith Dan McCabe from Prescott, Arizona; and printmaker Marina Terauds from North Branch, Michigan. More than 20 local emerging artists will be exhibiting at the festival for the first time.
The lineup of musical performers includes South African Grammy-nominated jazz guitarist Jonathan Butler; singer-songwriter Tanner Usrey; Texas singer-songwriter Josh Weathers; jazz vocalist Tatiana “Lady May” Mayfield; Latin rock band Del Castillo; Fort Worth’s Grady Spencer & The Work; and multiple performances from multimedia troupe Squonk Opera.
The “Hear Fort Worth Stage,” returns with performances by aspiring Fort Worth musicians and singer-songwriters such as Van Darien, Matthew McNeal, Panther City Riots, Armond Vance and Olemano.
This year’s presenting sponsor for the festival is PNC Bank, with 14 branches in Fort Worth.
“The opportunity for PNC Bank to serve as presenting sponsor of the Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival is one we couldn’t pass up,” said Dale Klose, PNC Southwest and Mountain territory executive. “PNC has a significant legacy of investing in the communities we serve through support of the arts, as we understand the economic, social, and civic impact a thriving arts and culture community brings to a city.”
New this year is the elimination of coupons for food and beverages. Credit cards, Apple Pay, and Google Pay will be accepted at all food, beverage, and merchandise locations. As in previous years, cash and credit cards may be used for artwork purchases.
Admission is free.
As a bonus, the Alcon Foundation will offer free eye screenings for the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, April 8, from a tent at the festival.
The return of the Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival comes with something else new this year: a competing arts fair.
The Fort Worth Art Fair will also run from April 7-10 and will operate during the same time in Sundance Square.
The inaugural event defines itself as “a vibrant homage to Fort Worth’s rich artistic legacy and a celebration of all things local: the city’s art, music, cuisine, culture, and more.”
Officials of Downtown Fort Worth Inc., which manages the Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival, said they offered to pay full rent for use of Sundance Square during the traditional event but the offer was rejected.
Sundance officials announced plans for the separate art fair earlier this year after a dispute with the city-run Public Improvement District over landscaping guidelines in the downtown business district. Landscaping is overseen by Downtown Fort Worth Inc.
“Sundance Square made the decision to host its Fort Worth Art Fair during the same weekend as our Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival,” Jay Downie, events director at Downtown Fort Worth Inc., said in a statement. “Although we wish they had selected a different weekend to host their event and thus given North Texans two different opportunities to visit downtown Fort Worth, such is not the case.”
Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc., said comments on social media and questions about two festivals at the same time has “succeeded in confusing the general public.”
Taft described the Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival as “a well-crafted and meticulously-organized downtown-wide event focused on jury-selected local and national artists.
“We spend months leading up to our event organizing its layout and site plan, evaluating crowd sizes, anticipating peak attendance hours, lining up security and safety measures, and planning activities happening around the stages, food courts, and artist booths,” Taft said in a statement.
“The Sundance festival is being intentionally held right in the middle of (the Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival) with almost no communication about it until very recently,” Taft said.
Besides art exhibits, the Sundance event will also feature live musical performers, including headliners Clint Black, Ledisi and Steve Miller, who grew up in Dallas and founded the Steve Miller Band.
Sundance Square officials have not responded to questions about the Sundance art fair.