Nationally touted arts festival returns June 26-27

By Al Cross and Meghan Quigley
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Midway will play host to the seventh annual Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival at Midway College, produced by Midway Renaissance, June 26 and 27. The festival has been named among the “Top Ten Art Fairs in the U.S.” by AmericanStyle magazine. Admission is $5 a carload.

The name of the festival commemorates Col. John Francisco, the original owner of the property on which historic Midway now stands.

Coordinator Marcie Christensen says this year’s event will have a new entrance, marked by signs and the festival's signature tie-dyed banners and leading through the horse paddocks on the campus. In the college's Anne Hart Raymond Center, Francisco's Gallery sponsored by Woodford Reserve will have a new theme, "Art Goes Green," showcasing artists who create with recycled and repurposed materials and found objects.

On Saturday, University of Kentucky arts-in-education students will guide children’s projects on Saturday, and on Sunday the Living Arts & Science Center will guide children in the creation of art from repurposed materials and found objects. A public art project will again be guided by citizensCreate! of Lexington, using found objects and creating sculptures that will find homes in the Midway Community Garden and the new Art Courtyard on Main Street.

Christensen said she encourages artists to bring their newest work, even experimental pieces: “Visitors will discover some artists they are familiar with, but with a much broader range of work.” (Sculpture by Ann Baker of Aiken, S.C., who was at the festival for the first time last year and is scheduled to return this year. Mary Thoreson at Damselfly Gallery sells her sculptures and fountains.)

The applications for artists become available at the end of October, eight months before the festival. All artists must be at least 18, and juried members of local, state, regional or national festivals or art programs. A juried artist is one who has submitted work to a panel of judges in an art organization, such as the Kentucky Craft Marketing Program or the Lexington Art League. Artists are selected by a panel of professional artists, fine art or fine craft gallery owners, Christensen, and several planning committee members who have been with the show since its inception.

The artists’ work is displayed on a screen, without the artist’s name, for the panel to judge. Scores for each artist are based on design, technique, originality, and so forth. The artists know if they will be a part of the art festival by mid-February.

“This gives us from February through June to promote both the artists as individuals and the festival as a whole,” said Christensen. On the Francisco’s Farm Art Festival’s website, artists are shown with their work. “Visitors can get a feel for the history of the artist,” Christensen said, “and buy a piece of art with a story behind it.”

On Friday evening, after setting up their booths, the artists get a special treat: dinner by a nationally recognized Midway chef. Ouita Michel, who is part owner of Holly Hill Inn with her husband Chris, hosts the dinner.

Art work is not the only medium at the festival.

“Every minute the festival is open is accompanied by great live music,” said Christensen. This year, there will be two stages, at the amphitheater and the library. For a performance schedule, go to www.franciscosfarm.org/music.htm.

The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Midway stores and restaurants extend their hours on Saturday night.

“The festival ends at 6 o’clock and the artists, especially those who haven’t been to Midway, like to explore downtown,” said Christensen. Mitch Barrett, one of Kentucky’s most talented contemporary singer-songwriters, will perform at the Festival at 4 p.m., then moves downtown for an evening concert at the Thoroughbred Theater. Tickets: ThoroughbredTheater.com.

Festival dining options will include Jake’s Crabcakes, Repicci’s Italian Water Ice, an outdoor grill operated by Midway College’s chef, and air-conditioned indoor dining.

With everything the art festival entails, the planning for the next year’s festival starts as the other ends. Approximately 200 volunteers work on the festival, in a town that had 1,620 people at the last census, in 2000.

“We always welcome new volunteers,” Christensen said. “Actually, we call them ambassadors more often than volunteers. That’s how important they are to the success of this event.”

The Southeast Tourism Society named the festival one of the ‘Top 20 Events for June.’ The Kentucky Tourism Council recognized the festival as one of the ‘Top 10 Events for Summer,’ and last year the Kentucky Festivals and Events Association said it had the ‘Best Festival Website.’