Three Carmel women have guided the Arts Festival through thick and thin
Less than smooth beginnings, if not humble beginnings. That’s the best way to describe the inception of the Carmel International Arts Festival.
“It was a very, very big event,” said Doreen Squire Ficara, CIAF board member and one of the Sept. 22-23 event’s co-founders, of that first Festival 15 years ago. “But it was very hard.”
Squire Ficara, along with current president Rosemary Waters and vice president Sandy Barretto, stepped in to rescue the fledgling venture after its first iteration in 1998. There was much work to be done, and many hurdles to overcome.
There was unrest with the initial location – City Center. There was the bill the City faced – some $80,000. There was a late-night storm that knocked over tents and ruined art. There was Barretto, Squire Ficara and Waters doing virtually anything they had to do to make things go – “I’ve bagged the trash,” Squire Ficara said.
There were also the sweatshirts. A lot of sweatshirts.
“We had all these sweatshirts printed up to commemorate the event,” said Squire Ficara. “But it was 90 degrees that weekend – they weren’t very popular. We ended up giving a lot of them away.”
“In those first years, we had no budget for entertainment,” Waters said. “So we’d go over to the library and get all the CDs we could find for any kind of international group.”
“The City Council at that time decided they were against the whole thing,” Squire Ficara said. “But we decided, ‘Too bad.’ We’re going to continue.”
“We were too stupid to quit,” Barretto said. “We wouldn’t give up, and we soldiered on.”
Soldiering on meant a move to Providence at Old Meridian, where the Festival began to flourish. More and more artists began to support the event, increasing from the 40-some vendors at the outset. With those additional artists, Waters said, came the biggest change in the Festival’s 15-year run.
“The increase in the quality of the art has been the biggest change over the years, without a doubt,” she said. “We have people coming in from all over America, and I think our growth has been via word of mouth.”
“We’re very well-known now,” added Squire Ficara.
These days, the Festival has called downtown Carmel home for five years, after migrating from Old Meridian. It draws nearly 30,000 people for its two-day run, including more than 130 artists. There is non-stop entertainment on two stages, food vendors and a corroboration with Carmel’s sister city in China, Xiangyang.
“The Festival tapped into something here that didn’t have an outlet before,” Barretto said. “We have such great volunteers and we really pamper our artists; we always make them feel welcome. I think that sets us apart.”
There are still concerns. Keeping Festival admission free, something in place since, “We charged ($8) but we had people sneaking in and it was too much to monitor,” said Squire Ficara, is the biggest issue.
“We’re hoping to keep it free, but we need to get funding from the city,” Waters said. “That’s questionable right now. We’d like to keep it growing for another 15 years.”
“We need support – that’s the word,” Squire Ficara added.
What becomes of the Festival if support is not garnered? Will all the hard work be for naught? Waters remains optimistic.
“We’ve done it before,” she said. “We can do it again.”
Rangeline Rd. Stage
10 a.m. – Chinese Dragon and Dancers
11 a.m. – Chinese Dancers
12 p.m. – Thunderhand Joe and the Medicine Show
1 p.m. – Grupo Bembe
2 p.m. – Ennis Clare
3 p.m. – Saebi Dancers
4 p.m. – The Tides Band
5 p.m. – Barometer Soup
10 a.m. – King’s Court Singers
11 a.m. – Elizabeth Wilson
12 p.m. – Sharon O’Connell
1 p.m. – Emily Ann Thompson with Kelly Thompson
2 p.m. – C.R. Ryan
3 p.m. – Steve Rushingwind
4 p.m. – Toni Deckers
5 p.m. – Maple Trio
Rangeline Rd. Stage
10 a.m. – Japanese Dancers
11 a.m. – Andrew Lyon / Steve Rushingwind / Buffalo Child
12 p.m. – Ana and Camila Cavalcante
1 p.m. – Hopkins and Miller Dixieland
2 p.m. – Slipstream
3 p.m. – CarmelFest has Talent winners
4 p.m. – The Final Klez-Down
10 a.m. –Christian Youth Theater
11 a.m. – Angel Nicole Adedokun
12 p.m. – Mia Sellars
1 p.m. – Toni Deckers
2 p.m. – Shane Rodimel
3 p.m. – Sharon O’Connell
4 p.m. – Slammer Jazz
Booths and vendors will be set up along Main St. from 4th Ave. W. to 1st Ave. E., and Rangeline Rd. from 1st St. N. to 1st St. S. This area will be blocked off to traffic during the Festival. Free parking is available at the Indiana Design Center and at Carmel High School. A continuous, complimentary shuttle service will run from Carmel High School to the east Festival entrance on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Handicap parking is available at the PNC Bank parking lot.
The main outdoor food area will be located on Rangeline Rd., north and south of Main St. Food tents will include Taste of Egypt, Da Blue Lagoon Caribbean Cuisine, Oriental Grill, Cooking Greek, 3 & 1 Restaurant, Italian Ice, Urick Concessions and Aunt Jean’s Fun Foods. In addition to food tents, adult beverages for ages 21 and up will be available through Sun King Brewery and Ertel’s Winery.
- Estimated attendance 20,000-25,000
- 130 artists competing for top awards in their art category
- Local non-profit organization Art with a Heart will provide a hands-on painting and drawing activities for kids
- Select artworks from talented students at Carmel High School and University High School will be exhibited in downtown Carmel at the Renaissance Fine Art Gallery
- For bike riders, the Pedal to the Arts initiative made possible by CHS’ Interact Club and the Carmel Rotary
- The Festival needs additional volunteers for a variety of jobs. For more information on volunteering, contact Cherie Piebes at email@example.com