Salina Arts & Humanities has served a unique role in arts advocacy and support since 1966. The Smoky Hill River Festival, the Horizons Grants Program, the Smoky Hill Museum, and the Arts Infusion program are among the programs of this City of Salina division.
Smoky Hill River Festival: Connecting people through an arts experience celebrating the creative spirit.
The mission of Salina Arts & Humanities is the cultivation of this place through the power of the arts and humanities to change lives and build community.
In 1976, a downtown Street Fair was held during Salina’s Bicentennial celebration. The event was such a hit that plans were soon underway to move the specially built gazebo to be part of the first-ever Smoky Hill River Festival, held in Oakdale in Park June 1977.
During its first 10 years, the River Festival added elements including a Fun Run, a children’s Art Participation area, park-and-ride shuttle service, and the popular Festival Jam concert. The Mamas and the Papas headlined on Saturday night in June 1987, and the Big Band Dance began that year.
The Festival’s second decade included expansion of the Fine Arts Show and Four Rivers Craft Market, Curt Krob’s popular, large-scale sand sculptures and site-specific Artists In Action installations across the park. Festival Buttons were $4.The Oakdale Stage was built. In 1985, the Kenwood Bridge and the Bi-Center entrance bridges were opened.
During the ‘90s and into the new millennium, the Storytelling Stage was born, as was First Treasures, to develop young art collectors. The tented Stage II was first created in the mid-90s. An Arts Patron program began, featuring a Saturday-morning breakfast in the Park’s formal garden. In 2000, Salina’s Community Art & Design Program (CAD) was launched for the Festival’s 25th year. Its first public-art piece was “Under a Canopy Of Hope,” for the Salina Animal Shelter. The Eric Stein (Main) Stage was dedicated in 2006.
Since 2010, the River Festival has evolved by combining its two art shows and re-envisioning the PREMIERE art-patron party and program. “Dream Dragon Bridge” and other icon Art Installations unveiling and in 2014, the SHRF Legacy Fund endowment was born. Among popular stage acts of the decade were Steep Canyon Rangers, That1Guy, Jakubi and Larkin Poe. In 2021, the Bravo stage and area will unveil as Riverside – a space of exploration, creation and dialogue between Festival-goers and artists and writers, featuring interactive artist demonstrations and more. Since its inception, the Smoky Hill River Festival has welcomed thousands of loyal home towners and far-way guests, as well as appreciative food vendors, artists and performers who had never experienced the arts Festival-style, until they came to Salina. The four-day arts celebration is unmatched in its on-grounds hospitality and community support and continues to evolve, reflecting Salina Arts & Humanities’ passionate commitment to the arts.