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Art in Bloom

Most Saturdays and Sundays in downtown Medford, it looks like you could fire a cannon on Main Street and not hit anybody. Not this weekend.

It's the time of year the city does its annual Cinderella act, turning a good chunk of the downtown core into a festive celebration of visual arts, flowers, local food and wines, entertainment and more.

The ninth annual Art in Bloom is this weekend. Hours will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The springtime festival draws artists from up and down the West Coast along with thousands of folks from around the Rogue Valley. Along with art and flowers, it will showcase live music, food, an ice-carving demonstration, floral workshops, children's activities, commercial vendors and more.

And it's growing. The festival this year will span the area from Sixth to Eighth streets and from Riverside Avenue to Front Street. About 120 artists and horticulturists will exhibit their work in the enlarged space.

Another new wrinkle is a can sculpture event pitting teams of local students and businesspeople against each other to see which team can build the best sculpture from cans of food.

"These large sculptures are engineering feats," says organizer Cindy Bedingfield. "People will be able to vote with a dollar. When it's over, both the food and the money go to ACCESS."

Bedingfield says similar competitions in Portland and elsewhere have been well-received. The creations can comprise as many as 8,000 cans of food. No props or glue or any kind of supports may be used. The can sculptures are to be displayed Thursday through Sunday at Vogel Plaza.

Speaking of sculpture, look also for 32-year-old ice sculptor Chris Foltz, of North Bend, who also dabbles in chain saw art and is a chef in his day job.

Another component of the festival will be an exhibit of the art of high school students from around the Rogue Valley.

"The two things we're focusing on are the can sculpture and education," Bedingfield says.

The festival in recent years has donated money to support art projects at high schools in Medford and Phoenix as public school budgets for the arts have been cut. This year, murals from North Medford High School will represent themes in science, culinary arts and fine arts, with 18 mural panels ranging from 8 feet by 3 feet down to just an inch square.

South Medford High School art students have created three artistic smudge pots, fanciful reworkings of the old smudge pots once used against frost in the valley's pear orchards. Others are creating an artwork they say draws attention to community issues as a result of attending an event called "Our Town: How can I use my creative mind to understand and improve my community?"

Medford Opportunity High School, a school for at-risk kids, has used money donated by Art in Bloom to buy art supplies such as canvases, paint, brushes, oil pastels, frames, clay and digital pens used to create computer art.

Live music will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday on the event's Bartlett Stage, and from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday on a stage at the corner of Main and Front streets. Look for groups such as the Crater Renaissance Academy Chamber Choir, the Rogue Valley German Band, Dance Arts Academy, Dance Folklorica and the Children's Musical Theater of Oregon.

Janice Bettenburg of The Garden Chicks displays one of her cement planters that uses an elephant leaf to mold the sculpture. Shoes turned into planters are another Chicks creation. - Jim Craven