The future of Tulsa’s beloved arts festival, Mayfest, is in good hands.
Ahha Tulsa, which took control of the event in 2020, ceased operations late last year. The unexpected closure left the continued existence of Mayfest uncertain – but the University of Tulsa swooped in to save the day. TU, led by president Brad Carson, purchased what was then the Hardesty Arts Center at 101 E. Archer St. and took charge of operations for the festival almost immediately after the nonprofit announced its closure. Despite a rapid acquisition, there were only about 100 days to plan the event, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
“Brad Carson charged his team with ensuring the dedicated volunteers behind the annual arts festival had what they needed to create a Mayfest befitting a golden anniversary, while upholding the traditions that thousands of attendees have come to expect,” says Mona Chamberlin, the university’s director of marketing and communications.
Mayfest began five decades ago as “Jubilee ‘73” to celebrate the Junior League of Tulsa’s 50th anniversary. Mayfest volunteers and leadership have worked diligently to honor those roots and “inject history into this year’s Mayfest wherever possible,” says Chamberlin. “Junior League of Tulsa will return and have a presence to celebrate its 100th anniversary. Area businesses and volunteers have collected posters from former Mayfest events, which will be on display in the galleries at 101 E. Archer Street.
“Also at 101 E. Archer, the Invitational Artists Gallery, sponsored in part by the Gelvin Foundation, returns to feature the work of past Mayfest artists and celebrate their commitment to the festival.”
Mayfest’s general schedule and offerings will remain the same as in years past, with activities running throughout the Tulsa Arts District and the Historic Greenwood District. The university is partnering with several area businesses to offer four performing arts stages in 2023, where guests can enjoy everything from dance to theatre to live music. Visitors can also expect a variety of food and drink options. Admission remains free to the public.
Of course, art is the jewel in the Mayfest crown. Visual artists from around the globe – and across the city – will be selling their original works throughout the festival’s three day span. Expect an array of mediums, including clay, digital media, pastels, glass, prints, jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media, painting, photography and wood.
While circumstances surrounding the planning time weren’t ideal, Chamberlin says Tulsans’ passionate dedication to the cause has helped exponentially.
“Mayfest volunteers have made all the difference,” she says. “The University of Tulsa staff and faculty are working hand-in-glove with the incredible cadre of volunteers who have made Mayfest such an amazing festival for half a century.”