The Blue Dome Arts Festival is an annual community event that focuses on promoting local artists, handcrafters and performers and has become a spring tradition for families across the great state of Oklahoma. What began in 2004 as a small gathering to showcase a handful of local artists has grown to become the regional event it is today. Even with this incredible growth, the focus of this festival has never strayed from being loyal to who and what they are… a LOCAL festival promoting LOCAL talent. Entering their 15th year, BDAF will proudly welcome nearly 300 Oklahoma artists, 25 performers and 20 mobile chefs to showcase their talents during this 3-day family-friendly celebration in downtown Tulsa’s historic Blue Dome District.
The Blue Dome Arts Festival began as a simple idea that started in artist Virginia Harrison’s backyard with a handful of local artists who wanted a chance to showcase their work. Michael Sager, the landlord of many Blue Dome buildings at that time, offered up the streets of the Blue Dome District and a festival was born. Catering to local artists who painted or handcrafted their own art, the Blue Dome Arts Festival had a very grassroots feel to it which offered something new and fresh to both the artists and their guests. After 10 years of growth, the festival changed hands when Michael Sager sold the iconic Blue Dome Building at 2nd and Elgin to Chris and Jo Armstrong, owners of Arnie’s Bar. The Armstrongs were no strangers to throwing festivals as they have been hosting the huge St. Patrick’s Day party in downtown for over 10 years and had also created Eat Street Tulsa, the largest food truck festival in the state, which occurred every fall for five years. After running the Blue Dome Arts Festival for 10 amazing years, Sager felt that it was time to “pass the torch,” and the Armstrongs were excited and honored to have been the chosen couple for the opportunity to run a festival that they had always appreciated and enjoyed themselves.
Trying to make their mark on a festival that they already loved was difficult, so the changes they made were ones that represented who they were as individuals. As parents of young twin boys, they looked to increase children’s activities and make sure that the festival was incredibly family friendly. As huge supporters of all things local, they added a big food truck food court which provides festival guests with the very best eats all while supporting small, local business on wheels. After two years, they added a PetZone to include a special place for the 4-legged family members. Beyond that, they wanted to get back to why Blue Dome Arts Festival started in the beginning and focused on the roots of the festival, making certain that all art must be local and handcrafted. They wanted to make sure everyone in Tulsa knew that when you come to Blue Dome, you should feel good about any purchase you make since every penny of every dollar you spend stays in our wonderful state. For Blue Dome Arts Festival, it’s all about supporting local art, local talent, and local fun!
There are so many reasons to come!
Many come for the art… eager to see what’s new and different, but find themselves impressed time after time with the quality of the work and talent surrounding them. Local art includes paintings, jewelry, clothing, pottery, photography, home decor, woodcraft and so much more that are all original works of art and proudly produced by hand. With a record-setting number of entries each year, they are forced to turn away many applicants, which only ensures that the art will be the best it’s ever been! With local art this impressive, you can feel great pride in finding unique pieces that you love, all while helping to support people in your own community… your neighbors, your friends, your crafters, your community. It’s a win-win.
Many come for the music… ready to hear the next ‘big thing’ or check out an old favorite. Either way, they’re sure to be pleased. Festival guests will hear everything from country to rock, from folk to hip hop, singer-songwriter and so much more. Even the kids get their own chance to rock out at a concert geared just for them with Spaghetti Eddie and Sugar Free All-Stars over the weekend. Without a doubt, Blue Dome hosts more talent and variety each and every year as both classic acts and fresh new local talent takes the stage!
Many come for the food… a chance to check out Tulsa’s best mobile cuisine all in one spot! With 25 food trucks near the stage, locals can find anything they could ever dream of craving. From burgers and dogs to pizza and BBQ, from Mexican specialties to Asian fusion, from sno cones to gourmet mini donuts… you’ll find it, plus so much more! Even better, every single food vendor offering something unique and delicious for you to enjoy is a local business, so your dining dollars will stay local, too!
Many come for the activities… so much fun to be had at all of the specialty zones at Blue Dome Arts Festival! Bringing the kiddos? Check out the Family Zone where adults can relax a little and let the kids play and create art of their own, or (better yet!) join them! Here, they’ll create your unique art, work on make-and-take projects, add to collaborative art projects, play on the inflatable slides and obstacle course, make their mark as a family on the Blue Dome Handprint Wall and snap a family photo to mark this memory! Bringing the pup? Check out the PetZone where each pooch can relax in the backyard created with real grass and landscaped within a picket fence in the middle of the street, all while checking out the amazing local pet related businesses. Participants include local vets, pet adoption agencies, a fresh dog food business, boarding facilities, training and even pet caricatures! Looking to make art of your own? Check out the Paint | Sip | See Area where festival guests can paint a masterpiece of their own during a step-by-step painting class, all while sipping on wine varietals from a local winery.
Whatever it is that Blue Dome guests are looking for, they’re sure to find it! And the best part is that admission is always FREE, so the activities, music and checking out the local art can all be enjoyed at no charge. Better yet, those who take home a piece or two of amazing LOCAL art or eat a delicious meal from a LOCAL food truck can feel amazing about supporting these artists and the community! Mark those calendars now for the 16th Annual Blue Dome Arts Festival May 17th – 19th in the streets of the Blue Dome District in downtown Tulsa!