The smell of fried food wafted down Seventh Street on Thursday evening, and the air filled with music and the sound of people chatting. The Showalter Fountain plaza bustled with people and was crammed full of booths and stages as people paused when something caught their eyes, whether it was the dunk tank, the First Nations booth, the food tent or a performance by Hooshir a cappella.
This past Thursday was the beginning of the First Thursdays arts festivals started last year by the Eskenazi Museum of Art as a way to foster interest in arts, according to the Arts and Humanities council's website. The festivals are held the first Thursday of every month as long as the weather allows, and this semester the festival is scheduled to run through Nov. 2.
Thursday’s festival featured main stage performances by the African American Choral Ensemble, Busman’s Holiday, the Jenn Cristy Band and a preview of the musical "Urinetown."
Reid Henry, a junior studying theater and drama, said he had his first experience with the festival by accident.
“I was on my way to rehearsal in the auditorium from hanging out with friends,” said Henry. “I decided to stop and check out the fair.”
Henry said he had a hard time choosing what was his favorite thing about First Thursdays. He said he liked the Medieval Studies booth where fairgoers could learn how to make a medieval text, make parchment, write calligraphy, mix pigments for paint and bind books. He also said he enjoyed listening to the African American Choral Ensemble and the Hooshir a cappella group.
Madeline Tankersley, a freshman majoring in International Studies, spent most of her time at the Wounded Galaxies booth, where she illustrated a short video. The booth offered reels of film and Sharpie markers for festival goers to draw their own designs to create short videos.
Tankersley said her design was based on some of her past doodles.
“I am doing a border-free design, it is just a little detailed doodle I used to do,” she said before returning to her work.
Near the Wounded Galaxies booth, the Filipino American Association demonstrated the art of tinikling. Tinikling is a dance comprised of jumping over and between long bamboo poles as they are struck on the ground and snapped together.
Hidayat Alakbarli, a foreign exchange student from Azerbaijan, said he was only visiting Bloomington for one week before heading to Washington D.C., and came to experience the arts festival. He struggled to learn the dance, frequently getting his foot caught as the poles snapped together. Nevertheless, he continued to try and after some demonstration and instruction from FAA members, he finally got the rhythm down and was able to dance.
Michelle Hahn watched the tinikling from a distance. Hahn, an assistant librarian at the music library, said she was hit by a car in Orlando, Florida, last February. Her injuries resulted in her having to be in a wheelchair for several months, but her recovery progressed well enough that she only needed a walker to make it around the festival. Although she could not dance, she posed on one foot with the poles.
“My father thought it would be funny if I took a picture with the poles,” Hahn said. “It's funny because I still have a brace on my ankle.”
Hahn said she is a regular attendee of the First Thursday festivals.
“One time they had a limestone carver who was doing this sculpture of a Swiss army knife,” said Hahn. “It was large, but the cool thing was that it actually worked.”
The next First Thursday will take place from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Showalter Fountain.