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Oxford Stories: A Behind the Scenes Look at the Fiber Arts Festival Set for Jan. 26-28

Powerhouse banner and sculpture, Gustave de Laureal

An Oxford festival that celebrates independent artists who keep fiber-oriented craft traditions alive will return in January, and members of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council are working to bring it back.
The 7th annual Fiber Arts Festival will be held Jan. 26-28 at the Powerhouse on University Avenue. Tickets are $2 per day or $5 for the whole weekend for adults. Children are admitted free.
The Fiber Arts Festival is a family-friendly festival with an educational component that includes children’s arts classes and two dozen workshops. Artists handspin and dye a variety of yarns, including alpaca, wool, silk, bamboo and mohair.
The last three festivals have been run by Andi Bedsworth. Works have ranged from historic quilts and handmade crafts, to contemporary works.
The first step in making Fiber Fest happen is a meeting with Knit1, the local fiber shop that started the festival. The second and most important step is to sit with Wayne Andrews of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.
Andrews grew up in a small, historic town much like Oxford, called Suffield, Connecticut. He played sports, took theater classes, was captain of the fencing team and had devoted parents.
“I had great parents,” he said. “They emphasized the importance (of) the arts and strongly believed that it would make me a well-rounded individual.
The Powerhouse event center. Gustave de Laureal

“When you are introduced to something in your childhood, you tend to enjoy things. I was introduced to the arts at an early age, so I have always had a passion for it.’’
Andrews attended Central Connecticut University, earning a bachelor’s of science degree in human resource management and marketing. He later attended the University of Memphis to take writing classes and pursue a law degree. Then, he attended law school at Mississippi College.
While studying at Central Connecticut University, Andrews was on the student activity board, but thought he board was doing a terrible job with events. The college booked shows based on budget, not what the students wanted.
Andrews decided to create his own private event hosting business with no title. Prospective clients contacted Andrews directly. This is how he made his segue into the event business. He wanted his college to be hip and cool.
“The school was the largest in the state, but nothing cool ever happened there,” he said. The first concert he hosted was for a band called Pajama Slave Dancers in 1987.
After graduation, Andrews worked at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis. He worked his way up until he reached assistant vice president. He remained there until 1998.
While living in Memphis, Andrews worked as the alumni director for the University of Memphis, directing university events, such as watch parties, banquets and golf tournaments, for three years.
Andrews later moved to Oxford and become a member of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council. He believed Oxford was a community he could enjoy, work in, and then eventually retire.
“Oxford is a great small town with a sense of community,” he said. “Both children were getting out of college. We wanted a smaller place to live.”
Andrews spends his free time working. “I work constantly,” he said. “My job is my hobby.”
He enjoys working for the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, because his skill set matches the exact criterion of the job he enjoys so dearly.
“My skill set is about sustainability,” he said. “I do something, and I can repeat it. Think about process. How do we do something, and how do we sustain it? That’s what I’m good at.”
Andrews said his favorite part about working with the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council is: “Every day is different; every day is exciting. Always finding something new and figuring out how to do it better. I don’t have a favorite event; I like everything. Most likely, my favorite event (is) the one I’m at currently.”
After a few sit-down meetings with Andrews, Bedsworth contacts all vendors and teachers from the previous year to see if they will return. Then Bedsworth registers vendors for a spot at the festival. Committed vendors must reserve a booth.
Next, the fiber festivities begin with an annual welcome reception. Attendees meet the artists, vendors and demonstrators who set up programs throughout the festival.
The Oxford Fiber Arts Festival is founded through a partnership with Knit1 Oxford and the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.
“The Fiber Festival is the first festival that I have ever run,” Bedsworth, curator of the festival said. “I learn more and more every year. I have done other events, but never a festival.”
Bedsworth contacts the 16 vendors and coordinates who is teaching the 28 classes that Fiber Fest offers. Vendors come from Alabama, Colorado, Texas, Tennessee and Oklahoma.
Oxford reserves blocks of rooms in hotels, but does not provide housing for vendors. For more information about the Fiber Festival, or to learn about becoming a vendor, call 662-380-1940.

By Gustave de Laureal
Read more stories like this on Oxford Stories.
For questions or comments, email hottytoddynews@gmail.com.

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