Festival celebrates the arts

"Hoosiers" screenwriter Angelo Pizzo talks about the film on Friday night, Aug. 4, at the Historic Eagles Theatre as a part of ArtsFest. Photo by Emma Rausch

By Emma Rausch

Plays, games and special guests were just a few of the features at the 10th annual ArtsFest, a three-day festival in downtown Wabash.

Thursday, Aug. 3, through Saturday, Aug. 6, crowds gathered at sites including the Charley Creek Gardens, the Honeywell House, the Historic Eagles Theatre and the Honeywell Center for a variety of arts and entertainment events.

Ranaan Meyer, ArtsFest artistic director, told The Paper of Wabash County the goal of this year’s festival was to encourage the arts in attendees by hosting performances and talks that inspire.

“This year is really going to be the first time that it’s truly going to feel like a festival,” Meyer said. “You won’t be able to hit everything if you’re only going to ArtsFest for the weekend as opposed to some of the years past where you really could go to everything or almost everything because there was some lag time.”

This year, lag-time was eliminated and attendees were made to choose what they wanted to see from this year’s list of events, he continued.

Festival-goers had the option of attending free Shakespeare in the Park shows, Jazz on the Lawn and several live band performances throughout the three days of entertainment. However, audience members only had one chance to meet Angelo Pizzo, the screenwriter of the 1986 sports film “Hoosiers,” or see New York City cabaret singer Kim Grogg in concert.

Pizzo, a Bloomington-native, answered questions about his career and how he became a screenwriter following the showing of “Hoosiers” on Friday night, Aug. 4.

As a member of the arts community, Pizzo said he chose to attend ArtsFest for two reasons, the first being that he likes to support any arts organization, fair or conference.

“If I can do anything to help other people, younger or older, any one can be creative at any time in their lives,” Pizzo told The Paper in an interview following the question and answer forum. “Secondly, I have a very fond memory of Wabash because Richard Ford is a friend of mine, was a friend of mine. We served on the board of the Heartland Film Festival for many years together and he invited me up to speak at the Honeywell House, which I did, and he showed me around town and all the amazing things that he helped get going.

“So when I was asked, I thought of Richard. I thought, ‘This is what Richard would have wanted.’”

Bright and early on Saturday morning, youths and their families gathered outside the Honeywell Center for the Kid-O-Rama Family Festival. The festival featured zorb balls, pedal go-karts, a foam party, face painting, balloon artists and petting zoos.

Hoosier Shakes presented four days of two Shakespearean performances, “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Romeo and Juliet.”

No matter the event, however, the price of admission was purposefully made to be as affordable as possible, according to Meyer.

“That’s the idea,” he explained. “Richard Ford, when he started this 10 years ago, it was all about that. It was all about involving the community and trying to, a little bit, disparage experiences and expanding horizons for people while not making it anything but accessible and fun for everyone.”

Affordable ticket pricing and continuing Ford’s vision are two “major parts of the mission,” he continued.

“I think we did have some higher prices as some point a couple years ago,” he said, “ and we learned right away that that was something that is really difficult. In years to come, we’re going to probably have some really high profile artists that we’ll have to increase our ticket prices a bit, but hopefully we’ll have discounts, we’ll have ways to really involve everybody. So anybody that truly wants to go can go.”

The festival and its line-up was a team effort, according to Meyer.

“It’s an incredible team effort with Andrea Zweibel, Katie Beauchamp and Michele Hughes and the ArtsFest volunteers that work so hard and they do it so selflessly throughout the entire year,” he said. “Everybody just works so hard. Everyone is just working their tails off to make everything great. We’ve had a lot of meetings over the course of the year about the content and what will go into it.”

As the festival continues to grow through the years, Meyer said that a key piece to its success is that the community feels included and “more importantly like it’s theirs.”

“In order to claim ownership, you need to make it available to everyone,” he explained. “Availability comes down to ticket price and it also comes down to making everybody feel home, which I feel is a Wabash attitude, listening to everyone’s constructive criticisms and growing it in a way that shapes the community but also pushes the envelop at the same time.

“All-in-all we’re really trying to make Wabash an arts festival destination for festival-travel throughout the country and even the world,” Meyer later added. “Long-term, there are really big plans in the works.”

Posted on 2017 Aug 08