Spring is prime time for the arts in Northwest Arkansas and one annual event surpasses them all – Artopshere: Arkansas’ Arts and Nature Festival. In its eighth year, Artosphere brings communities in Washington and Benton Counties together through a variety of events from music to visual art that celebrate artistic individuals who find inspiration in the world around us.
From May 4-20, 2017, art and nature lovers can attend free and ticketed performances, events and activities at locations across Northwest Arkansas.
“Artosphere celebrates the intersection of art and nature and encourages all of us to explore new art and new ways to interact with our beautiful region,” said Jennifer Ross, director of programming at Walton Arts Center. “Not only does the festival provide a platform for local talent at its finest, but for outstanding national and international artists as well. Each year, we take pride in presenting authentic artistic experiences through dozens of events and activities for kids, families and the entire community of Northwest Arkansas to enjoy.”
The entire Artosphere Festival lineup of events are either free or low cost and caters to a large cross-section of art and entertainment tastes: theater, dance, symphony, visual arts, chamber music, folk music, local music, family activities, nature, bicycling, architecture and more. For two weeks, residents and visitors alike have opportunity to interact with more than a hundred prestigious artists and performers literally from around the world who’ve come to Northwest Arkansas to share their art forms. The Artosphere Festival also challenges people to see the community through a different lens and invites meaningful dialogue about nature and sustainability through innovative arts experiences.
While it has certainly seen it’s share of changes, it’s devotion to the arts and the world around us has been a favorite with people. It has also provided a creative framework to discuss issues of sustainability. The festival recently launched a free app to showcase artists, performances and events throughout the festival. This allows Artosphere to reduce the the usage of paper maps and programs by going digital.
The linchpin of Artosphere is the Trail Mix Weekend, which will occur from May 13 to 14. While it began as a one-day Fayetteville-centric event, it has now expanded to two counties and lasts the entire weekend. By combining music, art, hiking and biking on the Razorback Regional Greenway and others, Trail Mix is the quintessential event of the festival. On Saturday, May 13, Artosphere teams up with the Square to Square Bike ride to provide a full day of free programs along the Greenway, from downtown Fayetteville to the Bentonville square and several other points in between to mark the second anniversary of the Greenway’s opening. The party will take place at places like Lake Fayetteville and Crystal Bridges Museum of Modern Art. Also, look for the Bike Zoo Giant Butterflies while you’re out. The weekend caps off with Trail Mix at Walker Park in Fayetteville. Some of the musical artists include Rozenbridge, The Crumbs, Melody Bond and more performing throughout the weekend.
While Trail Mix covers the nature side of things, the Artosphere Festival Orchestra is the musical highlight of the event. For seven years, an international ensemble of some of the finest musicians have gathered to perform in the Ozarks. Each year, the music offerings have expanded and changed. This year, led by acclaimed Music Director Corrado Rovaris, the full orchestra will perform three concerts. The opening performance, Live from Crystal Bridges: Mozart in the Museum on Friday, May 12, will take place in Crystal Bridges’ Great Hall and will be broadcast live on KUAF 91.3 FM Public Radio (Tickets: $40). Mendelssohn In Scotland and the Artosphere Festival Finale concert will both take place in Walton Arts Center’s Baum Walker Hall on Wednesday, May 17 and Saturday, May 20, respectively (Tickets: $10).
“We are so excited to have the Artosphere Festival Orchestra return for its seventh season in Northwest Arkansas,” Walton Arts Center President and CEO Peter B. Lane said. “Participating musicians have performed across the United States, Europe and Asia … delivering outstanding chamber music and orchestral performances, and regularly bringing audiences to their feet. We’re thrilled to welcome Maestro Rovaris and the entire AFO ‘home’ for yet another exceptional festival season!”
If you can’t make any of these shows, grab a pint and set back to enjoy some tunes as the Artosphere Festival Orchestra ensembles perform casual “pop-up concerts” around downtown and Dickson Street on May 18 at 7 pm. Check Artosphere App for an up-to-date list of pop-up concerts.
The Chapel Music Series allows patrons to experience exquisite music in fascinating settings like local churches and architectural marvels on May 9, 11, 13 & 16. Highlights include Grammy® nominee and IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year Claire Lynch at the E. Fay Jones-designed Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel in Bella Vista on Thursday, May 11 at 6:30 pm (Tickets: $10). On May 13, catch Live from Crystal Bridges: Dover Quartet at the museum at 4 pm (Tickets: $25). This performance will feature Four Miniatures for String Quartet by Richard Danielpour, which was commissioned for the Dover Quartet by Walton Arts Center and Artosphere. If you’re into more traditional music, Irish music composer and interpreter Séamus Egan will take you back with a performance at Sassafras Springs’ old Chapel Ruins on Tuesday, May 16 at 6:30(Tickets: $10)
Artosphere offers many other festival events such as Manual Cinema’s Lula del Ray at Walton Arts Center, Baum Walker Hall, on Thursday, May 4, 7 pm (Tickets: $10). A unique blend of storytelling that combines vintage overhead projectors, shadow puppets, actors in silhouette and live music, Lula del Ray tells the story (almost entirely without dialogue) of an adolescent girl, who lives with her mother in the middle of the desert, and becomes obsessed with a soulful country music duo and runs away from home.
International issues also arise during Artosphere. In keeping with the nature theme, the Joy Pratt Markham at Walton Arts Center will host Gallery Glacial Shifts, Changing Perspectives
Works by Diane Burko, opening on Thursday May 14. Walking the line between science and art, this free exhibit showcases the artist’s work documenting glacial melt and other dramatic changes caused by global warming.
For the kids, be sure to check out Compagnia TPO: The Painted Garden at Walton Arts Center, Starr Theater, on Saturday, May 6, 11 am, 2 pm, 4 pm (Tickets: $10). Watch dancers, performers and even the audience interact with four virtual landscapes that associated with a different color and inspired by the memories of painter Rebwar Saeed’s childhood in Kurdistan. This delightful performance features a digitally crafted world of gorgeous sounds and images that can be altered by movement to allow children to explore culture and space.
Another captivating visual performance is MOMIX Opus Cactus at Walton Arts Center, Baum Walker Hall, on Sunday, May 7 at 7 pm (Tickets: $15-$45). MOMIX has garnered a reputation for inventiveness and physical beauty for over two decades as they use dance and illusion to conjure a world of surrealistic images. This show provides a multimedia experience of the Sonoran Desert by creating images of cacti, slithering lizards and fire dancers. If the visual splendor doesn’t get you, the daring physical prowess of the performers certainly will.
Many more phenomenal events will take place during Artosphere. Be sure to download the free app to find the most update information. Tickets can be purchased in-person at the Walton Arts Center Box Office by calling 479.443.5600 or online.