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14th Annual Taste of the Arts Festival serving up “Something for Everyone”

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Courtesy/Arts United
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A few of the tasty offerings to look forward to at Arts Uniteds 14th Annual Taste of the Arts Festival
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Courtesy/Arts United
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Rachelle & Thad are excited for the expanded scope and accessibility of the event, which he assures us, "has something for everyone."

Arts United’s 14th annual Taste of the Arts Festival takes place Aug. 27.

After returning to the post-COVID summer festival lineup in 2021, its organizers are happy to continue to build on that tradition this year, and present a bigger, better and more accessible community-wide celebration than ever before.

WBOI’s Julia Meek talks with Rachelle Reinking and Thad Tegtmeyer, Festival marketing chair & steering committee chair, respectively, about its expanded footprint and how this year’s creative assortment of offerings echoes the organizations tagline, “Art Unites Us.”

Event Information:
14th Annual Taste of the Arts Festival, Downtown Fort Wayne
Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022
11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Meet the Music Finale Concert in Promenade Park
5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Free Admission / All ages

For more information and a schedule of Festival events, visit the Arts United website.

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Julia Meek: Rachelle Reinking, Thad Tegtmeyer, welcome.

Rachelle Reinking: Thanks for having us, Julia.

Thad Tegtmeyer: Yeah, great to be here.

Julia Meek: So you've had a year to work within a new normalcy in every area of Arts United and the community. Now it is time to taste it. So general feeling going into this year celebration?

Thad Tegtmeyer: We feel great about it. And you know, we got back to the business a little bit last year. And I feel like we're back on track to really grow in this event and expanding it in lots of different ways. So it's very exciting. I think it's going to be certainly a key event in Fort Wayne, as it has been every year.

Rachelle Reinking: I'd have to agree. It's been a year since we developed this new footprint. It served us well, and I'm glad to be returning to it.

Julia Meek: And let's note, that footprint, first off, the Arts Campus itself is expanding and your super quad block, if you will, of activity is now a corridor, a belt; quick rundown on how that looks and how it works.

Rachelle Reinking: Sure, I'll take you on a audio walking tour. We are starting out at Arts Campus Fort Wayne and that is completely activated. You travel down Rousseau Plaza across Clinton. That will be activated on to Calhoun and the Landing and then all the way over to Promenade Park. That is the span of the festival this year.

Julia Meek: An expansion that's most exciting and you have been busy on "accessibility for all." How are festival-goers going to be able to utilize these improvements?

Rachelle Reinking: Well, thanks to AWS Foundation, they have sponsored this increased level of accessibility and we're proud to be able to make the festival more disability inclusive. So we actually have a few additions to the festival, one of which is a shuttle system that is run through CTN. There's going to be one route that takes you around the perimeter of the festival and then one that kind of goes on the outskirts and travels back to that festival parking lot across from science central in Lawton Park.

We also have a quiet zone designated for those who might feel overstimulated during the festival, gives them a chance to take a break. That's going to be over in the form of Museum of Art upstairs in the Overlook room. T hen we also have noise reducing headphones in children's and adult sizes and earbuds we're glad that we're able to provide those at the information tents that we have. And additionally with the performances. We also have indicated on our stage schedules. This is a high volume performance and select performances, we'll also have an American Sign Language interpreter.

Julia Meek: How does it feel to be able to offer something like that to the whole city for such a joyful occasion?

Rachelle Reinking: I'm really thrilled that we're continuing on this path with Taste of the Arts where you know, the goal of the festival is to celebrate the rich diversity of arts and culture in northeast Indiana. But it's also to create access to those experiences without barriers. And now the first one we did was the barrier to cost—it's a free festival. And now we're starting to break down some of those other barriers that might be preventing people from participating in the events.

Julia Meek: And everybody can enjoy it more with the additions. Okay, a great platform, great access and traditions being built and going onward. Meanwhile, how you going to fill it all up this year?

Thad Tegtmeyer: With lots of people very excited to get outside and enjoy the arts, lots of different people. That's the thing that I think is so exciting. We've got so much to offer, I think there's something there for everyone. I know that's a little bit of a cliché, but there really, truly is.

And you know, that's a main focus of ours when we start this every year working on this, you know, as you've mentioned before, shortly after it ends we start working on the next year. (chuckles) But it's been a major focus of ours to appeal to as many people as possible, as many different kinds of people as possible. And frankly, I feel like that's at the heart of the arts in general, right? Is to appeal to such a broad audience.

Julia Meek: And a lot of this is about showing off their talents because, my goodness, for Wayne's...we have a lot of talent!

Thad Tegtmeyer: We have an incredibly rich arts community here I'm, I talk about it often when I'm speaking with people outside the community, and I just feel this is a key event that frankly, highlights that in a really significant way.

Julia Meek: And Thad, you are (chuckles) the Music Man. What's your stage count this year? And how does the ever growing set of platforms work to maximize tasting the music audio experience?

Thad Tegtmeyer: The committee is amazing and the stages team is phenomenal. And we're now at 11 stages this year.

Julia Meek: Oh my, my!

Thad Tegtmeyer: Which is really amazing. Over 60 performances again, a real rich, diverse lineup of music and different tastes, if you will, of music. I think that's super exciting. And you know, it helps us with that expanded footprint to really create anchors, if you will, within those certain areas that we're trying to move people through in our incredibly beautiful downtown.

Julia Meek: Sounds like you're going to have a good time doing all of that and plenty to be offering to them. And speaking of tasting, literally, you're continuing to expand the food tasting experiences again this year?

Rachelle Reinking: Yes, we have more than 20 food vendors this year of local cuisine featuring food and drink. And that includes favorite breweries like hop River Brewing, Chapman's Brewing and local cuisine like Bahn Mi Pho shop, Mercadito Taco truck and so many more. And we're really excited to have some new additions that we have not had at the festival before of varying different types of cuisine, including Cuban.

Julia Meek: Mmmm, and these are all literally truckin' in and going to be offered on the campus for the tasting of it. You're also encouraging people to go tasting from brick and mortar restaurants that are on or near the campus?

Rachelle Reinking: Yes, we are bringing back Taste a la cARTe, a Taste of the Arts sister event which runs August 21 through the 30th this year, so before, during and after taste and we have eight participating restaurants that you can go in to dine-in with and if you use your diners passport, you have a chance to enter the giveaway of the Passport to the Arts which is a prize basket filled with arts and culture experiences from northeast Indiana.

Julia Meek: (chuckles) Mighty tasty gift they're right in itself. Then how about a real quick look at old faithfuls, which we're talking about versus some brand new adventures--any of those going on this year?

Rachelle Reinking: Sure. So as in the past, we are having some of our returning favorites like the NIPSCO Steam Park, which involves kids activities presented by organizations that are completely interactive, we have the Artlink Market and Fort Wayne Artists Guild Kekionga Plein Air event coinciding with the festival.

And again, we'll have the Human Library participating upstairs so that you can get to check out one of the books. And new this year, we're excited to have the culmination of the traditional Arts Indiana and Arts United Allen County Folklife Study.

Julia Meek: Most exciting! How will that be presented?

Rachelle Reinking: So that will be over in the Parkview Physicians Group Arts Lab and directly in front of it. And this little Folk Life Lab that we have here is going to feature performances of traditional cultures including Black African American, Latin acts, Native American, Indian and Mon tradition.

Julia Meek: So a beautiful display of the "taste of the arts" right here in Fort Wayne. Music to be complementing that?

Thad Tegtmeyer: Absolutely. And once again, the diversity, even I'm involved in the preparation, and I'm blown away by the amount of diversity. You know, the event has gotten to the point where you need to plan to spend the day in order to see it all. And I think there's so many things that people have not discovered before that we offer, that it's worth it to say, Yeah, I got to see it all.

Julia Meek: That's a great suggestion Thad; thank you for that. And you know, with a lot of these ideas you're mentioning they've carried over and expanded and or improved upon from last year, how would you describe the scope and the flavor and the user friendliness of taste of the arts 2022?

Thad Tegtmeyer: Once again, it's hard to even encapsulate (chuckles) all that we're offering in a one, you know, one day event, and then that combined with the expanded footprint, you know, it is a trail. And that was very intentional to lead you through our beautiful downtown.

And I just can't say enough about what the committee and the staff at Arts United has done to put this together. It's an incredible amount of work. And they're so dedicated and devoted to this event and arts in this community and the community as a whole. It's very exciting.

Julia Meek: And we do make the sound so easy and organic. That's a testimonial to your planning and execution of all of this, but what kind of a crazy workload and team has it taken to get right here a nd now with this festival?

Thad Tegtmeyer: Well, it's, it's the, you know, arts United staff, additional community partners and leaders who have joined the committee. Look, Julia, I'm a guidepost. (chuckles) And everybody else is doing the heavy lifting. So I just can't say enough about their efforts. And you know, really, I have challenged the group in the last few years to grow the event to expand the event. And they've done that over and over again, in exponential ways.

So it's great to see the whole thing come together. And I know that there's a tremendous amount of work, tremendous amount of work that goes into it, and that includes the participants as well, you know. They're there because they love the arts, but they're doing a lot of work as well.

Julia Meek: (chuckles) You come in, you're part of all parts of the tastes. And is that obvious, Rachelle, as you're working, of course through the year on all of the Arts United projects that you do, but as it comes to this time of year right here right now, are you feeling that kind of a solidarity?

Rachelle Reinking: Oh, for sure. And being able to kind of see this culmination of all the different work that we have not only interdepartmentally at Arts United but across organizations throughout northeast Indiana that come to participate at Tastes of the Arts all bringing their work to one area of downtown Fort Wayne is just one of the coolest things to see and to experience.

Julia Meek: And going back to literally last year, this time, we were so happy to be emerging from the COVID having a wonderful Taste Festival that you guys all put together. How would you compare now, 2022the state of the arts here in Fort Wayne?

Thad Tegtmeyer: Well, I think the state of the arts is stronger than it's ever been. I feel that we are in a period right now where you're seeing really exponential growth in the arts, you're seeing growth within the organizations, I think you're seeing some significant growth within Arts United itself in terms of how we support and advocate for the arts.

Like I said before, I believe that this community has an incredible arts culture. And I think that it's starting to get more regional recognition and moving into national recognition, which is great for the community.

Julia Meek: And well deserved.

Thad Tegtmeyer: Absolutely.

Julia Meek: And meanwhile, Rachelle, you have been busy all year on multiple projects. What are some of the biggest happenings on the Fort Wayne art scene via Arts United from your perspective?

Rachelle Reinking: Well, I've seen quite a bit through my project with Art Unites Us, that interview series, being able to connect through other people and see their projects coming to life as well. I've had the pleasure of talking to several folks who are either involved with other organizations or as individual artists that are continuing to create things here in Fort Wayne. And that's a really incredible thing to be able to see and to foster along with not only the conversations, but the advocacy on their behalf.

Julia Meek: It's literally are uniting us, and how are folks able to share and benefit from those interviews once they are done,

Rachelle Reinking: You can go to artsunited.org to explore all of the current interviews that we have posted in audio or video form.

Julia Meek: Now, this is the 14th year for the Taste. In your minds, what's this setting up? What theoretical gateway or portal, if you will, are we passing through to look now at the next 14 years,

Thad Tegtmeyer: Hmmm...next 14 years. it's easy and difficult to envision all at the same time. But you know, for me, I see this event doing really two things: continuing to be a center post, if you will, a guidepost for our community, not just in the arts, but in social interaction within our community. That's incredibly important. I think when you come to this event, you see a whole lot of people, but a lot of different people that excites me very much.

I also see this event as becoming a platform to share the really vibrant arts culture that Fort Wayne has and share that on a national stage. I love the arts. I'm a huge fan, the arts support the arts, but I also see the arts as a tool to bring more awareness to our community. And I think this event is going to play a key role in that as we move forward.

Rachelle Reinking: I would love to see the festival continue to adapt into these new experiences that we continue to add year over year and start to find ways to just really make it an immersive experience. You know, we have such a good start with that. But being able to continue to feel like you've just stepped into an entirely different world once you set foot on to the festival in the best of ways.

Julia Meek: And last question; based on your flagship tag line, "Art unites us," what do both of you hope everyone takes away with them from this community event this year to ensure that the sentiment is forever in their hearts.

Rachelle Reinking: I think the message behind "Art Unites Us" when it comes to the festival is kind of a multi-layer meaning; we have the physical uniting on the campus, which of course is Arts United's cultural district, the cultural district we share with the community and the greater downtown community, but also uniting us in a way to really find that human experience.

And that's always my goal with Art Unites Us series is to not only talk about the what and the who is happening, but being able to find that human connection and be able to open your view to another person's perspective. I think Taste of the Arts is one of the great ways that you can do that because we have such a variety of people, of performances, of art genre, that it's impossible to leave without learning something new.

Thad Tegtmeyer: For me, if I had to summarize that the event, is sharing the rich diversity of our arts here in this community shared by the rich diversity of our community--of the people in our community. So I feel like that is always been the goal. That's always our vision as an organization and as a committee we've, I know without really just saying it that plainly, but we've always envisioned that you show up at the Arts and you look around and say, "Wow, there's a whole lot going on here shared by a whole lot of different people." And I think that's the most exciting thing.

Julia Meek: Rachelle Reinking is Festival marketing chair and that tech Meyer steering committee chair for Taste of the Arts 2022. Thank you for continuing to rock our art scene! Do carry it on.

Thad Tegtmeyer: Thank you.

Rachelle Reinking: Thanks Julia.

A Fort Wayne native, Julia is a radio host, graphic artist, and community volunteer, who has contributed to NIPR both on- and off-air for forty years. Besides being WBOI's arts & culture reporter, she currently co-produces and hosts Folktales and Meet the Music.