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Get unplugged this weekend at Art at the Arb

A big band-style performance takes place under the canopy of trees at Art at the Arb in 2015.
A big band-style performance takes place under the canopy of trees at Art at the Arb in 2015. Courtesy photo

The music will be acoustic, the light will be natural, and the backdrop will be a canopy of 100-year-old trees and thousands of blooming tulips. It’s this feeling of being unplugged – literally – that Robin Macy hopes guests will experience at the annual Art at the Arb at Bartlett Arboretum this Saturday and Sunday.

Macy, steward of the arboretum, describes the atmosphere of this annual springtime celebration as “real,” as she points to a bracelet on her wrist that reads, “Be Here Now.”

“That’s what I hope to create,” Macy said. “We live in such a virtual world anymore; we’re not present. I hope people can come to this event and be present.”

The festival fills the arboretum with more than 100 artists from across the state selling a variety of art including furniture, jewelry and antiques. Macy personally invites the artists, who she says align with the mission of the arboretum. She looks for artists who bring handmade and repurposed pieces, and who are conscious of the environment.

“It’s about quality over quantity,” Macy said.

Nine local musical acts will take the stage throughout the weekend. The lineup includes a bit of everything including bluegrass, big band and Brazilian music. Macy will perform with her husband, Kentucky White, and Darren Wilcox on Sunday.

Food vendors from the area will be on site including Mulvane’s Luciano’s Italian Cuisine, Lyon’s Den BBQ, Freddy’s Frozen Custard, College Hill Coffee from Winfield, Beautiful Day Cafe and the Lemon Lady. Visitors can grab a bite to eat from these vendors or pack a picnic of their own.

Art at the Arb ends at 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, but Macy suggests visitors make a day of it and check out the Tulip Time Festival, which takes place Friday through Sunday in downtown Belle Plaine.

What makes Art at the Arb unique is its century-old setting. The arboretum, established in 1910, is bursting with color now, with radiant purple redbud trees, tulips and towering trees. Macy said the grounds speak to people in a special way. When visitors come to the arboretum, it’s a chance to get away from daily distractions and obligations.

“When you walk through the gates you automatically feel like you’ve stepped back to 1952,” Macy said. “You’re in another world.”

While Macy hopes that visitors will come to the arboretum and be present, she understands when the cellphones start coming out for photos.

“I get it,” Macy said. “It’s a well-kept secret. And, when they pull out their phones, I know it’s because they’re moved by it.”

This well-kept secret is what impresses first-time visitors and brings them back. Macy says one of her favorite things to see is when a return visitor brings someone new and pulls them around the arboretum pointing out the beautiful scenes.

“It’s a treasure,” Macy said. “And really a treasure can exist for all of us.”

Art at the Arb

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Bartlett Arboretum, 301 N. Line St., Belle Plaine

Admission: $5 per person

Information: www.bartlettarboretum.com

Saturday’s music schedule

11 a.m. – Irish Ceilidh

Noon – The Crowsons

1 p.m. – Micah White Jazz Trio

2 p.m. – Driven Bluegrass

3 p.m. – Senseny Aerotones Big Band

Sunday’s music schedule

Noon – The Haymakers

1:15 p.m. – Songs From the Garden — Robin Macy, Kentucky White, Darren Wilcox

2:30 p.m. – A Terra Plana (Brazilian Choro)

3:30 p.m. – The Mudbugs (Cajun & zydeco)

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