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  • Photo by Adam Garland Taste of the Arts on Saturday includes entertainment, such as dancers from the Fort Wayne Ballet.

  • File The annual Taste of the Arts festival is expected to draw thousands of people to the downtown area Saturday. People can sample food, hear music and watch performances by area buskers.

  • Downtown Improvement District This year's Taste of the Arts festival will feature the Downtown Improvement District's annual Busker Square at Freimann Square, which was canceled in June because of storms.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015 10:06 pm

Dishing up creativity

Keiara Carr | The Journal Gazette

Weather forecasts are sensitive subjects for organizers of the Taste of the Arts festival.

The Fort Wayne Downtown Improvement District, which already canceled this summer’s BuskerFest after a strong storm in June, have planned to do what anybody would do when it comes to weather: "Close our ears and say ‘La, la, la,’ until the festival," event director Megan Butler says.

Saturday’s event is expected to bring at least 25,000 visitors to the downtown arts campus.

With the help of Arts United, the Downtown Improvement District has supplemented its annual Busker Square at Freimann Square with the street performers, stilt walkers and living statues who were not able to perform at BuskerFest. There is also an entertainment stage for acts such as Rusty Ammerman’s Dimension of Illusion, Fort Wayne Taiko and Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy Steppers.

"We have a much bigger footprint than we have had before," Butler says. "I think the thing that’s really, really different this year at Busker Square is the fact that we’re having more roaming and interactive buskers. We really thought about the festival as a whole and thought of the areas that really need some action and where do we need to get people moving down the streets and into different areas. Also, it’s a way to get people comfortable with buskers, and introduce them to the art of busking."

Carmen Tse, chairman of the Taste of the Arts, says she believes the Busker Square will be a highlight of the festival.

"They have a second chance to showcase all the buskers, and it’s always a draw. So a lot of people are going to be excited to see the buskers," she says.

More than 78 acts are planned for the full-day festival with the Busker Square stage bringing the count to 11 performance stages.

New this year, Artlink will host a "Wet Paint" fundraiser that will scatter 20 artists throughout the festival. Artlink will then have a silent auction at 2 p.m. for the wet artwork.

Food and beverage tickets can be purchased inside Arts United Center, where a lineup of performances is scheduled for the day, including animation projects and an interactive animation station by IPFW’s department of visual and communication design.

There will also be kid-friendly activities at Busker Square such as the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and Sweetwater Sound’s instrument playgrounds, bubble and magnet art with Science Central and brown bag hats with FAME.

"Dessert," the after-party for Taste of the Arts, will feature food trucks, live music and fire dancing by Pyroscope. An outdoor screening of the "The Sandlot" begins at 10 p.m.

The "Friends of the Taste" package allows individuals or corporate offices to buy tickets in advance to avoid lines, receive a free gift bag and admission into the festival’s Cool Zone.

Daniel Ross, director of development for Arts United, says that as the festival’s reach continues to grow, the planning committee really wanted to hone in its focus on the mission for Taste of the Arts.

"It’s easy to get lost in all of the details and all of the fun and activities, because it’s a huge event, and logistically, it’s hundreds of volunteers involved and thousands of hours of volunteer time involved, but returning to the concept of why we’re doing this, is to celebrate the rich diversity of arts and cultural experiences in our community," Ross says. "I think it was really important for us as a planning group to refocus on that."

Especially as Arts United attempts to process the effects of arts and culture through the Quality of Life surveys the organization launched in June.

The public input will be used to help the Cultural Advancement Committee draw up a 10-year agenda for arts and culture in Fort Wayne.

Arts United President Susan Mendenhall says Taste of the Arts shows the current conversation in action.

"The community dialogue around the contributions of the creative sector into our community’s quality of life and our ability to attract and retain talent is robust right now," Mendenhall says. "The Taste of the Arts festival is the embodiment of all the things we’ve been talking about over the last year throughout our cultural planning initiative and we’re really excited to see it come to fruition."

kcarr@jg.net