Editorial: Dueling art festivals? Bad idea. Bad omen.

🕐 3 min read

If we’ve heard it once we’ve heard it a thousand times: “What Fort Worth needs is another downtown art festival – one that would be held at the same exact time as the enormously popular, massively attended Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival.”

Yeah, right. That, dear readers – and we say this because a reader once advised us to be patently obvious when indulging in sarcasm or satire – that, dear reader, was sarcasm.

The Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival, now in its 35th year and enjoying a much-anticipated return after being sidelined in 2020 and 2021 by the COVID-19 pandemic, is a deep-rooted downtown tradition that needs no imitators and that has unequivocally earned the right to carry on without intrusion by interlopers.

But we here are, celebrating the Main Street Festival while simultaneously looking askance at a downtown party-crasher presumptuously dubbed the “Fort Worth Art Fair” – when if fact it is nothing more than the Sundance Square Management Art Fair. The owners of Sundance Square, a 35-block segment of the expansive downtown business district, have foisted this new festival upon us as an apparent act of spite against their critics and perceived enemies.

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It’s not entirely clear when or why the idea for a competing festival was hatched but we know this: It was announced shortly after Sundance Square was thwarted in its efforts to substitute its own landscaping preferences for the city’s downtown landscaping theme.

And who do you suppose oversees the downtown landscaping regulations that Sundance Square doesn’t like? Why, it’s none other than Downtown Fort Worth Inc., the very same organization that operates the Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival.

Landscape this, someone at Sundance Square headquarters surely said when the new art fair hit the fan.

Look, folks, the Fort Worth Art Fair presents no meaningful threat to the Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival. The traditional event will go about its business, will draw thousands of visitors to downtown streets and businesses, and will create four days of lasting memories for participants and festival-goers, just as it has for three and a half decades.

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The problem here, and the reason for our ire, is what the new festival represents: an unfortunate breakdown of another great Fort Worth tradition – the long cherished (and long envied by other cities) practice of the city’s leaders and communities working together for the common good. Unity of purpose and citywide teamwork have been the hallmarks of Fort Worth’s development, growth and achievement for as long as anyone around these parts can remember. To see that foundation of the city’s success crack and potentially crumble is discouraging and alarming. It does not bode well for Fort Worth’s future.

The issue of dueling arts festivals might seem insignificant in the overall scheme of things as the nation’s 12th largest city attempts to evolve and adapt in a changing world. But it’s another manifestation of an underlying problem that was highlighted March 30 with the announcement that a mainstay of the downtown restaurant scene, Reata, is looking for a new home because Sundance Square management has refused to negotiate a Reata lease renewal.

The Business Press has recently detailed other incidents of turmoil involving Sundance Square ownership, businesses and others concerned with the economic viability of the downtown business district. It’s a simmering source of concern that is growing worse, with no solution in sight.

Sundance Square has been a proud, prosperous and vital anchor of the Fort Worth economy for many years. It is disheartening to see it become a negative influence.

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