Art Walk seeks to revive ‘strolls on the square’

According to Wendi Douglas, executive director at Carthage Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Carthage once had a vibrant weekend night life.

As time moved on, however, restaurants shut down and people left Carthage in search of other entertainment. Last December, a committee was formed to help address the problem and the Carthage Historic Downtown Art Walk was formed.

“At one of the very first committee meetings we talked about ‘the olden days’ where not so long ago, because we’re young enough to remember, that it was very popular to have a date night on the square to go to the different shops and restaurants and stuff, and we really wanted to bring that time back,” Douglas said.

The committee decided to go for two dates, April 15 and 16, in order to give more to those who want to go without the kids.

“We really had two goals; we wanted a family friendly art walk, but we also wanted an opportunity for adults to get out and have a date night, so we divided it up into two,” Douglas said. “The Friday evening would be a casual stroll on the square with a date night atmosphere, some more adults.”

Friday night events begin at 6 p.m. and end at 8:30 p.m. The events will include wine tasting and dining, as well as displaying the art of famous artist in the area, including Lowell Davis, Andy Thomas and Thomas Hart Benton.

“UMB Bank is one of our sponsors, and they actually house the Thomas Hart Benton Collection in their vaults in Kansas City and they were kind enough to have one on loan for the CVB,” Douglas said.

Benton’s piece, “Buffalo River,” will be presented at Carthage UMB Bank on the night of the walk. Benton is a well known artist born in 1889. Benton was one of the leaders of the regionalism art movement.

Lora Phelps, vice president and trust advisor for the personal trust division of UMB Bank, said the bank is excited to participate in the art walk for both community reasons and for the history of the bank.

“UMB has a long history of love of the arts,” she said. “The Kemper family has been very involved in the arts scene up in Kansas City. We have a fine art management group that also manages artwork for different artists and different trusts so it was really a perfect combination for us—a good partnership.”

Phelps saw this as an opportunity to aid community businesses and expand people’s exposure to local artists.

“It’s just something that I thought would benefit the community—that would be interesting and fun,” Phelps said. “We have a great art community in Carthage so I think it would be a really fun way to showcase that to people.”

She also said she believes Joplin’s Third Thursday events have had a significant impact on the way people view art and the downtown area in Joplin, and she wants Carthage to follow suit.

“This is really just a way for people in our community who aren’t involved in the art community to see all the great and wonderful pieces that our artists have,” Phelps said. “They’ll be able to visit the businesses that are up on the square, so that should benefit our businesses for people to come in and see what they have to offer in the different retail establishments.”

Douglas agrees with Phelps.

“We just want people to come back downtown and to enjoy what we have to offer,” she said.

The children’s events will be held from 10 a.m. 3 p.m. April 15.