By Don Lowe 

   The fast-approaching MuralFest 66 that’s scheduled for late this month in Miami, Oklahoma, is a big deal for this community with several amazing activities, all designed to provide a memorable day of family fun and entertainment. 

   At the heart of this event are multiple murals that will be created. Callie Cortner, president of the Miami Arts & Humanities Council (MAHC) and director of library, arts and culture for the City of Miami, says, “Part of the excitement of MuralFest 66 is the unknown aspect of the work we will receive. 

   “We work with the Oklahoma Mural Syndicate (OMS) to select artists. We provide the walls and measurements on buildings in Miami’s Downtown Cultural District and OMS narrows down the artists that best fit our community. The OMS does the bulk of the legwork on (presenting) national artists.

   “We gather a muralist selection committee made of MAHC members, building owners, sponsors and community members. They look over all the past work of muralists and make recommendations to the MAHC board. 

   “We get to choose the muralist, but we do not decide what they paint. Over the years, we have gotten an incredible variety of work, and I can’t wait to see what we’re able to add this year. We are painting all new murals. Nothing is being redone or painted over this year.

   “Last year, we had more than 100 artists apply. Kris Kanaly with OMS makes suggestions on which applicants are suitable. Our muralist selection committee narrows it down further and makes their recommendations to the MAHC board. Then final selections are sent.” 

   Cortner notes, “Local artists also apply. They must submit a link for us to view their work or provide photos. Then, we make our selections. The number of artists changes yearly, depending on how many walls are available for painting. This year, we will have multiple local artists doing smaller murals individually and as many as 12 national artists.” 

   There’s so much to see and do at this extraordinary event and Cortner says, “This is free for anyone to attend. We have the murals being painted, live music, a charity car show benefitting Toys for Tots, kids’ games and events, food trucks, and we’re adding a new aspect to it this year. 

   “There will be a stage just to highlight our talented local kiddos. We are also inviting dancers, singers and musicians of all ages to come and perform for the community. We try to add something new every year. And this year, it’s the Little Locals stage.” 

   Cortner says, “I wear many hats in the community. This event allows me to do my favorite part – give back to the community. I love helping bring excitement and fun to the people living in Ottawa County and enjoy sharing how great our community is with those traveling here. 

   “We have so many great things to offer for such a small place in the world. I think our supporters feel the same way. We would not be able to do this without our sponsors and partners. This event takes months and months of planning. MAHC loves to bring arts and culture to people of all ages, and we encourage everyone to stop by.” 

MuralFest 66 Fast Facts

When: Saturday, April 29, starting at 10 a.m.

Where: Miami Cultural District between Miami Public Library and The Coleman Theatre

Various Activities

–Attendees will have the opportunity to support local artists by shopping the Art Market. Local vendors will also line Route 66 on the day of the event, while showcasing their businesses and selling their items. OMS Muralists will set up a sales tent to sell their work.

–The Kids’ Depot is sponsored by Vance Auto Group and will feature face painting by local artist Rachel Sanda and Balloon Art by Nate Morton. Kids can also enjoy plenty of games, prizes and a petting zoo hosted by local 4H kids.

–The Car Show is sponsored by Outta Control Auto and will have 10 award options up for grabs. Classic Cars: Vintage Midlife Crisis (1975 and older) and Hairband Metal (1976-1995). Modern Car: New Kid on the Block (1996-present). Rat Rod: Rat Fink. Semi/Big Rig: Maximum Overdrive. Import: Tuna No Crust. Bike: Easy Rider. Misc.: Outlaw.

–There’s also the Bodacious Bike & Scooter Decorating contest for kids 12 and under and a Big Wheel Race for adults.

Planning/Organization: Miami Arts & Humanities Council (MAHC), which is a 501(c)3 organization, is the backbone of the event. Its mission is to promote, encourage, coordinate and support high-quality programs and education in the arts and humanities for the benefit of the community. The council board works with local sponsors to raise funds to make this event possible each year. The City of Miami allows the beautiful murals and provides support with tasks such as blocking the streets and setting up the stage. The Oklahoma Mural Syndicate (OMS) is a big part of the festival since they help coordinate and pre-select the national artists. The Convention and Visitors Bureau and Visit Miami help with advertising and getting the word out.