This Saturday, more than 1,000 artists come together in Fort Worth for the city’s annual ArtsGoggle festival. The single-day artistic event, now heading into its second decade, is set to once again take over the city’s Near Southside neighborhood for a wide-ranging and diverse festival that’s anything but your traditional art fair.
“The defining personality of ArtsGoggle is that in many ways it’s totally irreverent to the way traditional art fairs and festivals work,” Near Southside, Inc. Director of Events and Communication Megan Henderson said. Henderson is part of the six-person team that organizes the massive event each year. “ArtsGoggle is this celebration of the other, which means that there are people who are in very traditional bodies of work…but side-to-side are people within the art community who are pushing the boundaries, testing things.”
As a result, Henderson calls ArtsGoggle a “grassroots celebration of everyone’s big, weird idea.” It brings artists of all experience levels and techniques together under one banner, most of which are from either the Near Southside itself or the broader DFW area.
“If you’re a child and you’re an artist and you want to show your work, you set up your booth right beside a professional artist who’s been doing it for 40 years and shoulder-to-shoulder, you figure out how to work the crowd together,” Henderson said. “In a lot of ways, we kind of break down all the boundaries of what a traditional festival does.”
That means curating an open call for artists rather than a traditional juried art show. Henderson explained that it allows artists to really expand their definition of art to pursue the kind of passion projects that they might not otherwise be able to produce for a traditional art festival.
“It gives the artists that space for experimentation and it gives the public a space to really be part of an art dialogue that actually shapes the artists’ work in a meaningful way,” Henderson said, adding that the festival helps expand her personal definition of art each year.
From unique and inventive papier-mache style masks to leather work that’s more artistic than functional, Henderson pointed to a number of attending artists looking to showcase uniquely inventive work.
“We have an artist who is setting up a dog photo booth and calling it BarksGoggle,” Henderson said, explaining that the artist behind the project is taking the year off from making traditional work to celebrate the attendees who bring their beloved pets to the festival each year. The booth will have costumes, props and different photo backdrops for proud pet owners to work with. “I think at any other traditional festival, if somebody had submitted that application, they probably would have been declined…but for us, we say ‘Oh hell yeah, that’s great. That is art.’”
Visual art isn’t the only kind of art that’s celebrated at the festival either. With over 50 musical guests, including popular headliners Ben Kweller, Holy Moly and Sir Woman, ArtsGoggle also provides a similarly diverse celebration of music.
Altogether, it makes for a distinctive festival that’s perhaps best embodied by this year’s featured artist, Jackdaw Folk Art. Henderson described Jackdaw as a printmaker who’s work touches on the “iconography of Texas commercialism” with a unique, recognizable style.
“We chose his work as a reminder of where ArtsGoggle started. It really started with grassroots art. It started with the guys who hustle for their work and really show up and turn out the tent,” Henderson said, referring to Jackdaw as the “hardest working artist.”
She went on to describe how Jackdaw is a mainstay at the festival. He sets up a booth each year while also typically taking the stage for a musical performance.
“To us, in the 20th anniversary year, it really felt like Jack was the type of artist who has given so much to our community, who has created such a unique and iconic expression of art…and so I think that’s part of why he was chosen as this year’s featured artist,” Henderson said, jokingly adding that the festival “told him he gets the year off from being a musician” as he will focus on his role as featured artist this year.
It’s that sense of honoring the local Near Southside community while celebrating and connecting with art and artists that Henderson hopes is the takeaway for attendees at this year’s anniversary ArtsGoggle, even beyond simply bringing back a piece of art.
“I do think the takeaway is really about the spirit of the people who are at ArtsGoggle, so no matter what you leave with in (your) bag, you definitely leave with a sense of how important community is and that is why we do this,” Henderson said.
For more information about ArtsGoggle, visit https://artsgoggle.org/.