Artists and art patrons celebrate 37 years


June 10th, 2011

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Omaha, NE – An annual summer favorite returns Friday for its 37th birthday. The 37th annual Omaha Summer Arts Festival kicks off downtown Friday, opening Farnam Street to artists, musicians, children and patrons of the arts.

The Summer Arts Festival includes interactive activities for children and adults. (Photo credit to

The festival came from modest beginnings showcasing a small amount of artists, mainly from Nebraska and Iowa. But, this weekend 135 chosen artists from 27 states set up shop and give art lovers a chance to browse and buy one-of-a-kind pieces. Festival promoter Stacy Maddux said the Arts Festival is always adding new things and one of those additions is Florida-based performance artist and speed-painter, Tim Decker.

“He does portraits of famous people in like a minute or two, and they’re recognizable people, so you will know who he’s doing. Plus, he’s just a fun and funny guy,” said Maddux.

According to his website, Tim Decker wasn’t the artist type at first; he only took two art classes in college. But a dream of him speed-painting on a boardwalk one night prompted Decker to buy some paint and start painting. Two years later, Decker entertains audiences at corporate events and state fairs wowing the crowd with his speed and accuracy.

Tim Decker is a speed-painter who will perform nine times this weekend. (Photo credit Tim Decker)

Furiously painting with both hands, Decker completes large portraits of people such as John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Lady Liberty and John F. Kennedy, in less than 12 minutes.

“They’re all completely 100% right from memory,” said Decker. “I come up with an original concept that I want to kind of do, then I just kind of have to put time into it and to really try to memorize it and put music to it and choreograph it.”

Decker’s performance begins with hyping up the crowd and letting music hint at the celebrity he’s chosen to paint. Decker will be doing nine total paintings this weekend starting Saturday at noon in a temporary studio located at 14th & Farnam.

Another staple of the Omaha Summer Arts Festival is the music. “There is music of all different kinds going on Friday through Sunday on the main stage. Everything from bluegrass to Zydeco,” said Maddux.

"Summer Flowers" by this year's featured artist, Katrina Methot-Swanson. (Photo credit to

Zydeco takes on French-Creole roots and has permeated American folk. Native American new age band and Omaha Summer Arts staple, Brulé, will perform throughout the weekend. Local bands such as All Young Girls are Machine Guns and polka band Uff-Da! are among the 14 performances that will be featured.

Maddux said the Omaha Summer Arts Festival will also include a large book sale, kennel show, young artist showcases and interactive exhibits. The festival opens at 11:30 a.m. Friday and runs through Sunday at 5:00 p.m.

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