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The Assistance League of Norman brings art to the community via the May Fair Arts Festival



May Fair Arts Festival
10 a.m. Friday-Sunday
Andrews Park
201 W. Daws, Norman

Oklahoma certainly isn't lacking arts festivals this season, with just about every corner of the metro sectioning off a weekend to let the arts community take over a neighborhood park. To find out what distinguishes Norman's May Fair Arts Festival from the others, one has to dig a little deeper.

"May Fair started as a gift from the Assistance League to the city of Norman," said Jeri Saliba, who handles public relations for the festival. "It started out as a one-day, fine-arts festival and has grown over the years to three days with 70-plus artists and craftsmen. It is a juried show with a lot of different mediums represented, like painting, ceramics, photography, woodworking, glass."

While organizers consider the festival a part of its community service mission, the three-day event also raises money for one of the Assistance League's other projects, Operation School Bell. The program provides clothes for students in the Norman and Little Axe school systems. While the festival is not the most significant source of income for the program, Saliba said every bit helps.

"We clothed 1,156 students during the fall session," said project chair Aleta Giddens.

As Operation School Bell serves the needs of youth, Giddens sees May Fair as serving the Norman community, noting that the festival is designed to be inclusive, bringing in artists and crafters who appeal to experienced collectors and new art buyers alike.

Saliba said there will be continuous entertainment on the amphitheater stage, including music, dance and performance art, as well as a Friday night showing of the family film "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs."

The festival also includes a Children's Art Yard where experienced craftsmen will help budding artisans make kites, tie-dyed T-shirts, pots and even rope.

Each year, May Fair organizers select an artist to honor. This year, Edmond painter Rory Morgan was chosen. His depiction of the Oklahoma landscape near the Wichita Mountains, "Misty Meadows," has been used throughout the festival's promotional material and appears on the official T-shirt. The festival veteran said May Fair has always been a good event for him, particularly because it isn't a sprawling and congested art show, but a smaller, neighborhood function that gives him more time to interact with visitors.

"I prefer it because it is more small-town," he said. "You get a better chance to talk to people. I'll go to the bigger shows, and there are a lot of people and everyone is talking, so it gets really hectic. People tend to prefer to really get to know the artist, and they can do that at a show like May Fair." "?Charles Martin


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