On Saturday, before the Waldron, Hill and Buskirk Park grass patches filled with picnic blankets and lawn chairs, volunteers for the Lotus Education and Arts Foundation’s 30th festival set up their tent stations. The event included artist lectures and demonstration workshops, live performances on Lotus’ main stage and visual arts activities in the artists camp from noon-5 p.m.
One volunteer stationed at the artist workshop tent, Grace Rimkunas, said this was her third year volunteering for the Lotus festival. She recieved her master’s in arts administration from IU in 2021 and currently works at the IU auditorium. Rimkunas said this kind of festival was like nothing she’s seen before. She said she expects festivals of this caliber to be in bigger cities which makes this festival so special to Bloomington.
“The community of Bloomington, they appreciate and celebrate the arts like it’s no one's business,” she said.
Rimkunas said the Lotus festival exposes the community to varying musical genres which they may initially be unaware of. She was especially excited for workshop artist Danmore Kusaya.
For his workshop, Kusaya, who is originally from Zimbabwe, brought up a few of his students from Fairview Elementary School. They performed “Spirit of the Lion” which he said was a song representing humans’ connection to nature and all that surrounds them. After the performance, multiple audience members went up to Kusaya to comment on his talent and thank him for his time with the students.
“The music is the only reason why I’m here today. I like when people hear the music and hear the story and learn about where it comes from,” Kusaya said.
From the audience, Tim Dunham expressed his appreciation for experiences offered by this festival. For his wife's birthday, the couple had gone to the Lotus festival music venues the night before, which they enjoyed thoroughly.
By the main stage, audience member Michael Cain grooved to the IU African American Dance Company’s live performance. Cain graduated from IU with a degree in biology and has been in Bloomington ever since. He’s been coming to Lotus since it started and said he is grateful for a community that supports the arts like Bloomington does.
The executive director of the Lotus World Music and Arts festival, Katarina Koch, said that she feels connected to the town of Bloomington especially since she graduated from IU a few years back. She said that’s why she feels so strongly about Lotus’ mission, expressing appreciation for the support that Bloomington gives the organization.
“We can bring music and art and help build the culture or allow the culture to come out of the woodworks.” she said.
In the neighboring section of the park was the artists camp which offered an array of arts and crafts in small white tents.
Jenna Bowman, co-founder of the Morganstern’s Bookstore and Cafe, was at one of the tents in the camp. She said she strives to support Lotus in every facet of their mission, explaining that what they do creates a community for everyone. As she talked, kids played with paper and ribbon, learning how to bind books and make bookmarks.
A couple tents down, Lotus volunteer Cynthia Schultz was at the IU Museum of Archeology and Anthropology station where, later that day, featured artist Michelle Solorzano would share her art. Schultz met her husband at IU in 1974 where she would later help develop and publish some of IU’s first web pages when the internet first started.
Schultz has been volunteering at the Lotus festival since it first began. She said her kids come in to spend time with family, seeing what the festival is like each year. Her oldest son even flew in from as far as Florida.
“My family thinks of Lotus like Christmas.” she said.
The Women’s Writing for (a) Change tent was also at the artists camp where Creative Director Mary Beth O’Brien and organization facilitator Amy Cornell stood. Cornell has been a part of the nonprofit organization since 2006. Ten years ago she got up on stage at the Lotus festival and read poetry out loud, a practice she often encourages women to do.
“For some women it’s a very big deal to stand up and be loud and tell their story.” she said.
At one point, a young girl walked up to their tent where paint swatches lay. As a part of poetry teaching, Cornell encouraged her to make a story by drawing on each of the colored squares. The girl ended up drawing out a story and ran to tell her sister.
O’Brien said she used to bring her kids to the festival when they were young. She said she was happy to be a part of such a passionate arts event.
Metal chipping at Indiana limestone could be heard echoing throughout the park as well. Amy Brier, who came with the Indiana Limestone Symposium to Lotus, was demonstrating the art of limestone carving, letting everyone try it themselves.
Brier got her Master of Fine Arts in sculpting from IU and helped with the brain sculpture that sits at the IU Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences building. She has been coming to Lotus since it started and she said she enjoys creating a space where artists can express themselves with their art.
Later in the day, featured artist Michelle Solorzano began teaching kids how to mold and shape clay. Solorzano, a Dominican Republic native, is in her third year of her Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics at IU.
The day was full of color and the night following would be of a similar vibrancy. Nearby on the main stage, the Robert Mirabal Trio, who came from New Mexico, began their sound checks for a their performance with guitars and singing. In the workshop tent, Nani Noam Vazana prepared to share her songwriting in the endangered Ladino, also known as Judeo-Spanish, language. Soon, the tents would be torn down and the Lotus festival’s night activities would be in full-swing.