Edmond Vibes boosts the downtown economy

Kyle Dillingham performs June 2 at Vibes in downtown Edmond. (Photo by Eriech Tapia)

Seductive sounds of a saxophone, brightly colored paintings, tantalizing aromas of local restaurants and a sense of excitement filled the air last Thursday night in downtown Edmond for the June Vibes event.

On the first Thursday of the month, from April to October, downtown Edmond is buzzing with Vibes, an evening festival with musical performances and visual artists in the streets, where downtown businesses reap the benefits of increased foot traffic that far exceeds that of a typical weeknight.

Now in its second season, Vibes, Edmond’s First Thursdays, is described by Ben Nockels of Commonplace Books Downtown Edmond as “the most catalytic event to revitalize downtown Edmond in the wake of COVID.”

Vibes is a program of the Edmond Institute of Fine Arts, a community-based nonprofit arts organization that offers visual and performing arts classes for children and adults year-round. The 2022 season is sponsored by Citizens Bank of Edmond, Mercy, Edmond Electric, First Bank & Trust Co., Engel & Volkers, The Duncan Group, The Mule, Small Architects, Valor Bank and the City of Edmond.

The inspiration for Vibes, initially conceptualized as an art walk, began in early 2020, said EFA program director Savannah Whitehead. As the conversations continued, it became clear that EFA, whose “goal is to provide creativity to the community,” was the organization ready to take the lead. A year of planning during the pandemic shutdown has brought the details together.

When Vibes started, companies were impatient, Whitehead said. “When we started in April 2021, companies were saying, ‘We needed this. We needed energy and people, on the move, to get back downtown for the economic recovery. »

“Our goal was to take visual artists and performers and bring them into businesses,” Whitehead said.

Placemaking strategies with artists encourage people to walk and see artists while stopping at businesses to take advantage of shopping and dining options in the 15-block area, she said. declared.

“The goal is for you to hear something and see something all over downtown,” Whitehead said.

Nockels sees EFA as “a building block in the community” and a “pillar that supports the arts and all that surrounds the culture-creating mechanism that is the arts. (With Vibes), it’s very clear to see the economic impact an arts institute has on downtown Edmond as a neighborhood.

As with most retail stores, Nockels considers Saturday its busiest day, and “having Vibes is like adding a Saturday to the month, so there is, for us, a very real and tangible impact.”

Vibes is also having a profound effect on local artists, like Aimee Eischen, who is back for her second season with Of Dust and Ash Art. “There’s so much to love about Vibes,” she said. “It’s such a fabulous thing for downtown Edmond, for the community and for the art culture.”

The support, she says, from Vibes as well as businesses in downtown Edmond has helped her meet a lot of people and sell her art as well as get commissions.

Visual artists display and sell their work on the streets of downtown Edmond during Vibes. (Photo by Eriech Tapia)

Vibes artists pay a small entry fee at the start of the season but keep 100% of their sales proceeds, Whitehead said. Performers are paid by EFA and earn tips during the event.

Participating in her first season with Vibes, artist Cassandra Elaine said, “Vibes brings me the perfect people I need to meet, interact with and share my art with.”

Artist Clayton Beavers is in his second season with Vibes. He only started painting a year ago and was taking classes at EFA when he heard about the Whitehead opportunity. “I hopped on last year; It went well, so I’m back now for a second season. Beavers, who says he works to build a local community with his art, has enjoyed meeting other artists through Vibes and interacting with event attendees, even meeting local collectors. “A guy I met last year – he now has four of my paintings,” he said.

“The power of Vibes is that it shows what a vibrant neighborhood it is and will continue to be,” Nockels said. “What I like is that the gap is closing between a special event in downtown Edmond and an ordinary day. I imagine at some point it’s going to be a normal Thursday night, or Wednesday night, or Tuesday night – with performers in the streets and live music.

Whitehead agrees, and his goal for the event is to grow with artists and musicians and see the downtown business community grow. “We show people what the community could look like any day of the week. Downtown Edmond could look like this every night.

David H. Henry