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Arts organization makes 2nd attempt at 1st festival

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After a false start in 2020, plans for a mural art and culture festival in downtown Springfield have renewed.

The MidxMidwst Arts & Culture Initiative is set for Sept. 11-12 and organizers are about to launch a crowdfunding campaign to help fund the event, which features live mural painting and music. The Kickstarter campaign will start March 16, said Meg Wagler, founder of the festival and the MidxMidwst organization.

“Essentially, this is our year one, try two. I’m kind of viewing it as 2020 didn’t happen,” she said of last year’s festival plans being dashed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year’s MidxMidwst cancellation was made in July – a decision Wagler said saved the festival an undetermined amount of money. The organization, which is a fiscal agent under Branson-based nonprofit Southern Missouri Arts Connection, was only out around $200 at the time it pulled the plug, she said.

“As a first-year event, it’s much different to get that off of the ground,” she said, noting MidxMidwst’s nine-person artist roster, including her, carried over to this year. “It was very intentionally curated to be a mix of local, regional and national talent so that we can bolster our local artists and give them a spotlight, but also cross pollinate these creative ecosystems with other successful art communities.”

Wagler is a self-employed visual artist and muralist who worked a few years as art director for digital marketing and design firm Departika LLC until 2019. One of her Springfield murals is at the recently renovated East Sunshine Street store of St. George’s Donuts.

She said negotiations are ongoing with building owners for mural locations. She’s targeting most of the festival activity in the Robberson Avenue alley area downtown, near Park Central East.

The music roster is probably a few months away from being determined but is designed to be a mix of local and national talent, she said. Organizers are working with Springfield-based Headline Productions LLC.

Financial considerations
Wagler estimated the inaugural event will cost around $100,000. This month’s Kickstarter campaign has a $10,000 goal.

“A portion of a Kickstarter goal is to raise funds. As a grassroots organization, it’s imperative to do that on the front end so that we have funding to operate as we book bands and make sure we have all the artists’ supplies ready and get those accommodations set,” Wagler said. “The most important goal of the Kickstarter is to really garner community awareness and community support.”

The Kickstarter will offer a variety of perks for different price points, including all-access passes and branded merchandise.

“I don’t want to ask anyone to do free work for this,” she said of the festival bands and artists. “I want this to be a true economic booster and opportunity for people to seek out.”

Acquiring sponsors is the next big goal after the Kickstarter. Several connections have been forged, such as Better Block SGF, Locke and Stache Media LLC and the city of Springfield’s Department of Environmental Services. However, sponsorship amounts are yet to be determined as agreements are unsigned, Wagler said.

Austin Elliott, co-owner and operations director of video production company Locke and Stache, said his team is producing three promotional videos for MidxMidwst. The first was released Feb. 22, Elliott said, adding staff also will film during the festival for a post-event recap video.

“We love Springfield, and we love making Springfield a cooler space,” Elliott said. “Anytime events like this pop up that we can help in some way to elevate it to a level of something different, we love getting involved with that. This one was a perfect blend.”

Locke and Stache also is a sponsor of the annual Rated SGF Film Festival, which just canceled its event set for this month, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. It’s the second cancelation amid the pandemic for the festival, which debuted in 2018.

Mural connection
As one mural-based initiative awaits its debut, another one made its mark in a high-profile downtown space last fall.

Dan Malachowski, managing member of Baron Financial Group LLC, is leading the Chroma mural project that has a goal of turning blank walls into canvasses. Chroma’s first mural was completed in October outside Hammons Field. It features a “Home of the Springfield Cardinals” welcome sign and several players in action. Malachowski said the five-day project cost under $10,000 and was completed by four artists led by Kansas City artist Phil Shafer, aka Sike Style.

While the pandemic has been a challenging time to acquire donations, he said Chroma has raised a little over $20,000 from sponsors. Financial planning firm Heim, Young & Associates Inc. made a $10,000 presenting sponsor donation for the Cardinals’ mural, he said, while insurance company Osborn & Associates donated $5,000. Roughly $5,000 in sponsorships also were raised from Ozark Fence & Supply Co., Ozark Printing Co. and A Color Story LLC.

Chroma has at least two more murals on tap for the spring, he said.

“Both of them will also be downtown. … We’re still working on details for both of them to be sure we have all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed,” he said, declining to disclose locations or the artists, both of whom have Springfield connections. “They will be within walking distance of mural No. 1.”

He estimates the murals will cost less than $6,000 apiece to complete.

Looking past September’s festival, Wagler said MidxMidwst has plans to eventually become a 501(c)(3) and open a public art residency program. However, the majority of energy from the group, which includes around 15 volunteers, is focused this year on launching the first-time event.

“Once that machine gets moving, then we’ll shift to more organizational growth,” she said. “We want the resources to be poured into this so that the integrity of it is good and what Springfield deserves.”

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