Thousands pack Grand Wayne for FAME Fest
March 7, 2019
It’s the one time a year when more than 6,500 pieces of art are on display and 2,000 students show off their music and dance talents to an audience of at least 10,000 people.
The Foundation for Art and Music Education — or FAME — is gearing up for its annual festival held in downtown Fort Wayne. The event, taking placing this year on March 16 and 17, is something children, parents, and teachers look forward to.
“My students talk about it all the time. They’re like, ‘Am I going to FAME, am I going to FAME?’ said Covington Elementary art teacher and FAME board member Cindy Haggenjos. “We just stuff the Grand Wayne Center full of art from all over Indiana, so the kids get to see what other kids are doing. I have students come and take pictures of other projects so that they can come to school and say, ‘Hey, I saw this. Can we do something like this?’ It inspires them to get involved.”
Fellow art teacher Ann Gordon was inspired to get involved in FAME 18 years ago when she started teaching at Hickory Center Elementary School. She’s been a board member for a dozen years, serving as president for the past three.
One thing Gordon particularly likes about the festival is that it provides an opportunity for students of all ages and all skill levels.
“There are a lot of kids who aren’t into sports or that’s not their thing, and if they get a piece chosen to be in the festival, we put a certificate up for them and it’s a big deal to them,” Gordon explained. “Very often we hear, ‘My grandparent went, or my uncle or my godmother.’ It’s a big deal for those kids. You can just see the pride swelling.”
The Visiting Artists are a major attraction each year as a way to highlight a different culture. This year, the focus is Sub-Saharan Africa.
Nicholas Sironka is originally from Kenya and will teach the art of Batik, which uses hot wax and cold-water fabric dye. The Griot Drum Ensemble will also be on hand for original performances.
“When I first started teaching, I thought, ‘Whoa, this is great. What a great way to share culture with people,’” Gordon said. “I love learning about the differences of people. The more you learn about the differences, the more you learn how we are all the same. From day one, I was hooked.”
Music teacher Diane Barton felt the same way. She’s a past president of the FAME Board of Directors and has been involved since the beginning. Her students perform each year during the festival.
“It gives them a goal to work toward that performance,” Barton said. That’s just part of what we will do in an elementary music classroom, but it is a piece of what they learn to do in front of others and have the presence to stand up in front of an audience. That’s a life goal.”
Another goal of the festival is not just to showcase art that’s already been completed, but to encourage younger kids to experiment.
“We have what’s called the Imaginarium” said FAME Executive Director T Irmscher. “It has 15 different make-or-take art activities for students that are based on the Sub-Saharan Africa theme.”
“Some of them are instruments that they get to take home and try to recreate sounds, some of just based on the culture of the people from those areas,” Barton added. “So if they’re not coming to perform or have their own art, participating in the Imaginarium gives them a chance to.”
Three stages of Music
Music performances take place on three different stages all weekend, featuring choirs from local schools. The Celebration of Youth concert will be at 3 p.m. Sunday, with music from the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Youth Orchestra & Symphonies and the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir along with dancing by Fort Wayne Ballet.
“It’s just a great way to showcase kids’ art,” Irmscher said. “It’s a great way for them to be part of something that they can be proud of. There’s hardly a time that I can go out and someone doesn’t say, ‘I was part of the FAME Festival when I was a kid. I had artwork at the FAME Festival, or I sang during the FAME Festival.’ It’s something that really impacts the kids. I just feel like it’s important for them to have that opportunity to showcase their art.”
Admission is free for children under 18 and $5 for adults. It runs Saturday, March 16, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, March 17, from noon to 5 p.m.