In the latest installment of our occasional conversations with Fort Worth newsmakers, Megan Henderson, director of events and communications at Near Southside Inc., talks with arts and culture editor Marcheta Fornoff about the plans for ArtsGoggle, a free one-day arts festival taking place Saturday, April 23.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. For the unabridged version, please listen to the audio file attached to this article.
Fornoff: Thank you for talking with me. I’m wondering if you could describe your involvement with ArtsGoggle and also where the name for the event comes from.
Henderson: The name is always a question, and it’s got a curious little backstory. I was first a patron of ArtsGoggle and a volunteer long before I produced the show. As a proud South Sider, ArtsGoggle is kind of the premiere Near Southside festival.
It started some 19 years ago when the Near Southside was eager to attract creative individuals to the neighborhood. We had all these great, empty spaces and wonderful industrial spots that were in the Main Village area of the Near Southside and were perfect for artist studios or cool gallery spaces.
The festival was started as a way to draw creatives in, and I was one of the creatives. I felt so excited to attend, and it was held more like a gallery night where you would pop in and out of a bunch of different participating locations.
Over the first handful of years, it became very popular to the point that in 2013, when I began producing the show as an employee of Near Southside Inc., we had thousands and thousands of people, somewhere around five to 10,000 people, that were walking along the sidewalk, spilling out into the street. ArtsGoggle had kind of outgrown its original site plan. So that’s when we began moving it into the street.
It went from about five to 10,000 people to over 50,000 people. It’s a big show and a lot of fun, and I’ve always been really proud of ArtsGoggle.
At the very beginning, a woman named Laura Hunt was part of a committee that was putting together this art show. Laura’s an artist and was on that team that was trying to think of a clever name. Her son threw out the idea of kind of goggling at art or looking at art through your arts goggles. And that’s where the name came from. We’ve always just stuck with it because it’s so unique that we haven’t ever come across another ArtsGoggle.
Fornoff: Tell me a little bit about what you’re looking forward to this year, and if there’s anything that’s different since the last time you all held ArtsGoggle in 2019?
Henderson: Every ArtsGoggle is different. That is part of what makes it so special. It has maybe a similar fabric, but the nature of ArtsGoggle is that it is an open invitation to creative individuals in the city to showcase their talent. So we never really know what that will look or feel like when the show happens because it truly is a kind of all participation style event.
I am most looking forward to being together in the community again. This will be our first big public event that we’ve held since the pandemic started, and ArtsGoggle has this kind of magical communal feel. There are thousands of community members out on the street greeting each other and hanging out for the day, supporting local businesses.
There are children who come to ArtsGoggle and participate. They register just like any other artist, and we don’t really separate children from adult artists. We believe that regardless of how long you’ve been practicing art, you should be able to show shoulder to shoulder with anybody on the street. So it’s really fun to look up and down the booths and spot the kids who are maybe right next to a very established artist. I think they have something to gain from each other where the child is learning from the professional beside them and maybe the older artist is learning from some of the enthusiasm of the child, and it reminds them why they go to all this effort.
Artist Sandy Jones is our featured artist for 2022, and Sandy’s work is called “Miles of Smiles.” He’s created a special series of artwork for this year’s ArtsGoggle, capturing all of the smiles of community members in this colorful and whimsical way. His booth at block 12 will be a real highlight of the show, no doubt.
Fornoff: Sandy is a visual artist, but you also have performing artists, right?
Henderson: That’s right. We have over 30 bands that will play on ArtsGoggle day. Bands start at noon and play till 10 p.m. on two of the main stages. We also have indoor music at The Boiled Owl and some really phenomenal artists. We’ve got Lou CharLe$, local favorite that’ll be headlining the East Stage and then on the West Stage Sarah Jaffe, kind of an indie, alt rocker. She’s a longtime favorite of ours, and we’re excited to welcome her back.
Fornoff: Do you have any tips or advice for first-timers?
Henderson: I sure do. There are a lot of great ways to get to ArtsGoggle. Most people are inclined to kind of jump in their car, but Trinity Metro has partnered with ArtsGoggle this year, and we have a really robust transit service that’ll help get people to the festival. They can go to ArtsGoggle.org where we have information about how to use the ZIPZONE. We also have the No. 1 bus line, which actually delivers patrons right to the street in the middle of the ArtsGoggle festival site. Plus, we have a trolley that circulates to a series of park and ride lots. You can drop your car off somewhere in South Main Village and then make your way to ArtsGoggle without any hassle for parking.
Make it easy on yourself. Wear good tennis shoes. Have a great day out on the street and enjoy some of the food. We work hard to partner with local artisan food vendors who are emerging businesses in our neighborhood. We have over 50 food vendors that will be out on the street serving up some of the city’s best food.
Fornoff: Anything that I didn’t ask you about that you wanted to mention or you think is important to know?
Henderson: I think it’s important to say that ArtsGoggle is a free event. It’s family friendly. We have a lot of really special activities for younger patrons at ArtsGoggle, and this year we’ll be launching the Magnolia Make Believe, which is our creativity zone. It’s designed for people of all ages, but we think young Gogglers will really enjoy it the most.
Fornoff: Thank you so much for your time.
Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.