Photo credit Alex Wennerberg

Photo credit Alex Wennerberg

Event: Tom Thumb Art Festival

When: April 15-16, 2016

Location: The Aquadome, 120 S Main St., Kirksville, MO 63501

Who: Art enthusiasts

Cost: Free

Take part is a longstanding tradition by attending the Tom Thumb Annual Floating Art Festival Friday and Saturday at The Aquadome. For almost 20 years, students have honored the arts through the art exhibition created by Jimmy Kuehnle and Kjell Hahn in 1998. They were originally unhappy with restrictions placed on students with the kind of artwork accepted into art shows and instead created an exhibit that would be non-juried and where all art would be accepted. Since then, students and Kirksville community members interested in the event have helped to organize the festival each year.

In the past, the festival has been a one-day event. However, with this year’s theme being XXL — extra extra large — the exhibition will be hosted during a two-day span to allow students and visitors a greater opportunity to attend.

Something remarkable about Tom Thumb is that it is a traveling art exhibit, meaning the location of the festival changes every year. While venues may be repeated throughout the years, the festival is never hosted in the same place for two consecutive years. When it was first created, the festival was hosted in different people’s apartments. As the festival gained momentum, it was hosted in venue spaces. Since 2013, it has been hosted at the previous Aquadome — which was destroyed by a storm in 2014 — Manhattan Events, and local hookah bars in downtown Kirksville.

Photo credit Alex Wennerberg

Photo credit Alex Wennerberg

Art for the exhibit varies from performing arts, such as musicians and bands to literature and poetry readings, and artwork painted by students. To comply with the non-juried tradition and to encourage creativity, the committee in charge is usually accepting of many different styles of art. However, Truman student Alex Wennerberg says in the instance that the art is highly discriminatory or overly sexist, the Tom Thumb committee serves the right to deny artwork.

“Tom Thumb is really about empowering the artist and not having us be the jurors of taste and determining what is good art and what’s not,” Wennerberg says.

For those who have never attended, the committee in charge has been working since February to create an exhibit suitable for all personalities and interests. During the day, the atmosphere will be more relaxed at the walk through gallery and poetry readings. At night, the beat will pick up with musical performances.

“I think we picked performers who will appeal to a large crowd this year,” says Rachel Hain, a Truman student who helped organize the event.

Photo credit Alex Wennerberg

Photo credit Alex Wennerberg

Twenty music artists will perform throughout the weekend, including American Basswood, Evan Jefferies and Extra Vision. In addition, published writer and Truman alumna Kimmy Walters is performing a special reading. For those wanting to publish their own artwork before the exhibit, it is not too late. The Tom Thumb committee will meet on the Truman’s campus on The Quad Friday 11 a.m to 4 p.m.  

Hain and Wennerberg agree the community has been the continuous cause for the success of the festival throughout the years. The students at Truman demonstrate the want and the need for an exhibit such as this one. Promoting artistic freedom and creativity continues to be the driving factor for the Tom Thumb Festival.

For more information on Tom Thumb and the lineup for the weekend, visit Tom Thumb Art Festival on Facebook.