Tempe Arts Fest features distinct variety of attractions

From standard paintings to smoked meats to a man on a unicycle, Tempe has pulled out all the stops this weekend

Hannah Cook, Managing Editor

The air on Mill Avenue in Tempe is filled with the smell of kettle corn, cotton candy and the sound of musicians and performers during the 28th annual Spring Tempe Festival of the Arts.

From March 27 to March 29, Mill Avenue will be lined with 352 white tents set up for vendors from across the United States. These vendors will sell everything from collages and jewelry to photographs and even edible art.

Andrea Merican, a watercolor painter from Scottsdale, is this spring’s featured artist.

“I have drawn and painted since I was very little,” Merican said. “I picked up watercolor within the last three years so it’s actually a newer medium for me to work with. I wanted to just dedicate myself to one medium and really try and master it.”

Merican applied to the festival for the first time this year. Though she was uncertain of whether or not she would be accepted to the festival, the committee ultimately selected her as the featured artist.

“I was shocked to find in October when I got my official acceptance that not only did I get in, I got selected as the feature artist,” she said. “I never was expecting that.”

To honor Merican’s work, the festival also includes a Kids Innovation Station where children of all ages may stop by and create their own watercolor painting. This station is set up on 6th St. to the east of Mill Avenue.

Two other artists at the festival include Edna Harris, known for strategic placement of a candy wrapper and an object found in the desert in each of her paintings, and Adam Homan, who is known for his metal sculptures.

“When I first started doing collage, I was looking around for things to include and I had a whole stack of the Dove candy wrappers that I had saved because of the sayings inside,” Harris said. “Ever since then I’ve just kept using them.”

Homan said his fascination with “out-of-this-world creatures” began as a child when he watched “Star Wars.” He now uses those same childhood fascinations as inspiration for his metal sculptures.

In addition to traditional artists, the Tempe Festival of the Arts also features live music from acts such as the Arizona Bluegrass Association, Paul Miles for some live blues, pianist Richard Rifkin, and a string quartet called Simply Three.

The festival also includes other entertainment such as Jamey Mossengren, a world champion unicyclist, and balloon artist Amazing Josh. Mossengren will give several performances throughout Saturday and Sunday at the intersection of Mill Avenue and 5th St., while Amazing Josh is stationed all weekend on 6th St. to the east of Mill Avenue.

Though the festival’s main focus is on the artists, the tents along Maple St., to the west of Mill Avenue, are devoted to food and craft vendors. The food vendors sell a variety of products including honey, jelly, salsa and smoked meats.

Along the same street is the Art of Beer hosted by Four Peaks Brewing Company. Admission is free and all are welcome, but only those over 21 are permitted to drink.

The Tempe Festival of the Arts will continue Saturday, March 28 and Sunday, March 29 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

For more information about the festival and its vendors, check out their website.