What do YMCA, Canine Companions for Independence, and What-A-Burger have in common?  They will all be helping kids and adults actively experience art during the second annual Arts Trek on Saturday, April 16.


Arts Trek, an arts adventure for all, is free and open to the public.  Held at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art and the campus of St. Gregory’s University, the event features a performance walk from 10am to 12pm and an arts festival from 10am to 4pm. 


According to event coordinator Donna Merkt, “Arts Trek was established to emphasize the amazing artists and performers and outstanding arts programs and resources in Shawnee and the surrounding areas.  However, what really makes this event special is the community collaboration.”


Arts Trek has received generous support for the event from Junior Service League of Shawnee, Vision Bank of Shawnee, the Shawnee Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.   Furthermore, many of the participating organizations, institutions, and businesses are “Helping Hands” sponsors for the event and are donating their time to help kids and adults with a variety of free arts activities during the festival.  Some of these activities include: Dog Masks with Canine Companions for Independence; Recipe Card Holders with Dawn Bourlon –The Pampered Chef; Worry Dolls with Family Promise; Tissue Paper Flowers with the Red Bud Unit (Shawnee Garden Council); Emergency Contact Cards with the Red Cross; Bookmarks with the Shawnee Public Library; Origami with Shawnee Sister Cities; Smart Art Wallets with SIFE (OBU); Pinwheels with STARS; Grow a Marigold with Sustainable Shawnee; a special “What-a-Whistle” with What-a-Burger; and Face Painting with the Troy and Dollie Smith Family YMCA.  Additionally, local artist and art educator Bob Berry is providing a clay exploration table.  KGFF 1450 AM is providing sound equipment for live performances by a variety of performance groups who are volunteering their talents to make Arts Trek spectacular. 


The arts departments of the local universities are also involved in Arts Trek.  Visitors of all ages have the opportunity to collaborate in a community art project with the St. Gregory's University department of Visual Art.  For “Our Stories,” visitors will help create three large narrative columns that will later be displayed at the museum and elsewhere in the community.  The SGU department of Performing Arts is also involved in planning the performance walk.


Furthermore, during the event, students and professors from the OBU visual art department are giving demonstrations on loom weaving and using a potters wheel and OBU’s theater students are performing the during performance walk.  OBU graphic design students also helped by each creating an identity for the event’s visual media.  The design for this year’s banners, postcards, and ads were based on the creative concepts of OBU student Aaron Morvan. 


One of the event’s interesting collaborations is between the Troy and Dollie Smith Family YMCA and Arts Trek.  The YMCA is celebrating Healthy Kids Day at the event and will be providing a variety of activities, including a bounce house and scavenger hunt, to promote healthy and active living for kids and those who are still kids at heart. 


“We are very excited about collaborating with the YMCA to combine Arts Trek and Healthy Kids Day,” said Merkt.  While the collaboration may seem unusual, Merkt explains that Arts Trek is the perfect opportunity for such a partnership.  “It is that active component of Arts Trek—the performance walk, where visitors follow a map and walk around the campus to experience a variety of performing arts—that makes this collaboration possible.  During Arts Trek, viewing the arts is an active experience!”  Moreover, the scavenger hunt will take visitors on a journey to learn more about art as they visit different booths during the arts festival.  Each child who completes the hunt will earn a special prize!


Merkt explains that Arts Trek “runs solely on volunteer power.”  A host of volunteers, including the Helping Hands sponsors, Boy and Girl Scouts, members of the Mabee-Gerrer Volunteer Society, and many individuals donate their time to make Arts Trek happen—that adds up to well over 100 volunteers for the event. 


“We greatly appreciate all of our sponsors and volunteers,” said Merkt. “It is truly incredible that so many people pull together to celebrate both the arts and our community!”


Arts Trek begins at 10am on Saturday, April 16 at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art and St. Gregory’s University Campus.  For additional information about Arts Trek, please visit www.mgmoa.org/artstrek or call the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art at 405-878-5300.    All activities at the MGMoA are supported in part by Allied Arts, Oklahoma Arts Council, and National Endowment for the Arts.