Carson: Mayfest's 50th year was in question, but now goes forward
The president of the University of Tulsa — the new managing body for the festival — said an "eleventh hour" donation ensured the festival would go forward in its milestone year
Editor’s note: The University of Tulsa holds the broadcasting license for KWGS.
Mayfest kicks off its 50th year today, but whether it would happen was recently in question.
At a ribbon cutting event Friday morning, University of Tulsa President Brad Carson said the future of Tulsa’s flagship arts festival was in doubt late last year due to financial troubles. The festival was previously run by the Arts and Humanities Council.
The Arts Council operated out of the Hardesty Arts Building. The university acquired both the festival and the building in early February.
Carson said the festival has proceeded thanks to an “eleventh hour” donation of $50,000, volunteers and logistical support from MidFirst Bank.
“It is not an overstatement that we simply would not be here if it were not for our friends at MidFirst,” said Carson.
Carson said the university felt it was important to take over the festival to ensure it’s held in its 50th year.
Held annually, Mayfest features artists, live performance and food vendors in downtown Tulsa. Carson said its management has changed hands several times — before the Arts Council ran the festival, it was run by the city and by Junior League of Tulsa.
This year, Mayfest encompasses Tulsa’s Arts and Greenwood districts in downtown. It’s smaller in scale this year than in years past, when it was held in downtown’s Deco District.
When asked about concerns over how the festival will be run after changing hands, Carson’s response was simple: Come on down.
“All the volunteers that have been with the festival for years, they are very pleased with how it’s all turned out, so we’ve kept faith with the great traditions of the festival,” Carson said.
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said conversations happened in the recent past that questioned whether the university would be involved in the arts anymore. Bynum said the opposite has happened under Carson’s leadership — the university is involved in the festival, Hardesty Arts and the Gilcrease Museum.
“You think about all the great cultural institutions that we have here in Tulsa, and the University of Tulsa is involved in them in one way or another,” Bynum said.
At the ribbon cutting, Bynum said Mayfest is an example of the arts as an economic driver in the city.
Mayfest will last today through Sunday in Tulsa’s Arts and Greenwood districts. For more information, visit www.tulsamayest.org.