Inaugural Flyover Fest brings together artists from varied disciplines, mediums for community building, exchange of ideas

In fairness, grassroots creativity might be a difficult thing to see from 30,000 feet.

The name Flyover Fest is an obvious play on the pejorative or defensive term (depending on who's employing it) for the vast expanse between the East and West coasts of the United States — that area that would be flown over on transcontinental flights.

In the derogatory, this area that's never seen from the ground might, at most, arouse curiosity about what's going on down there. If, that is, any thought is given to it at all. As a self-deprecating term employed by Midwesterners, “flyover” is both sarcastic and prideful — a statement about what's being missed when your plane doesn't land here.

In the hands of the organizers of the inaugural Flyover Fest, the approach becomes something of a report. The cross-disciplinary event features programming and performances exploring literature, music, film, podcasting and more. Presented by local independent book publisher and film producer Two Dollar Radio in conjunction with Outer Orbit Booking, Wild Goose Creative and the Wexner Center for the Arts, Flyover Fest will present three days of programs, panels and performances in five Campus, Old North and SoHud locations: Spacebar, Used Kids Records, Rambling House Soda, Wild Goose and the Wex.

“The seed of the idea came from attending some other really great festivals, like Mission Creek in Iowa City [and] Pygmalion in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois,” co-founder Eric Obenauf of Two Dollar Radio said in an interview at his Clintonville home. “They're not just music festivals, but tech, author readings, book fairs, films [and] music performances. [It's] more along the lines of building an arts community.

“We would go and feel a part of this community, and we'd say to ourselves, ‘Man, we'd love to bring these people to Columbus and show them what the city has to offer.'”

What the city has to offer is two-fold: both a bevy of artists from varied disciplines and an audience highly supportive of creatives — perfect for the kind of community building the Flyover brain trust had in mind.

“It was, for us, a chance to bring people from out of town … and to show off the city itself and the community,” said Two Dollar Radio's Brett Gregory. “And then also offering audiences here the chance to see these acts from out of town. It's sort of a two-way street.”

“It's a chance to show off what we think is special about Columbus,” Obenauf added.

With Columbus serving as locus, the festival's organizers set out to assemble a lineup that would not only display the best of the local creative community but also offer quality out-of-town talent to an appreciative audience.

“We saw it as this community festival of ideas that is creatively stimulating [featuring] people from different mediums who are doing cool work,” Obenauf said. “We intentionally set out to include some of the more vibrant performers we know of.”

“We wanted the festival to be inclusive. We wanted to represent almost all kinds of art,” Gregory said. “From there, we looked at just about anything we were into or could see merit in.”

Key early commitments from journalist/author/podcaster Amber Hunt from Cincinnati, Columbus hip-hop artist Dominique Larue, author Scott McClanahan from West Virginia, Columbus hip-hop artist/producer/author/podcaster Blueprint and Columbus band Connections proved both encouraging and productive. Not only were these artists important adds to the festival, many provided contacts to additional artists outside of their own field of endeavor.

“The bands have been excited that it's not just a music festival,” said Outer Orbit Booking's Tom Konitzer. “Since it was our first year, we sought out their ideas as well, and most were very receptive.”

“One of the first bands that was really into the idea was Connections, and they were excited by the literary part of it,” Obenauf said. “They would bounce around ideas for people who could do a reading or whatever. That was a cool experience, having a band recommend an author or writer. Through them, we got connected to [poet] Ruth Awad.”

Saturday's book and music fair highlights the independent publishing scene, of which Two Dollar Radio is a part.

“We have this incredibly awesome, supportive community in the independent press. I know these publishers do incredible work, and so we want to expose people to what they're doing,” Obenauf said.

The organizers wanted not only a multi-disciplinary festival, but to build it in such a way as to have those disciplines overlap.

“We didn't want to just say, ‘The poets are over here; the garage bands are over here; and this is the hip-hop stage,'” Obenauf said.

“We're trying to create a flow, where one thing sort of bleeds over into the next,” Gregory said.

“Someone might come out to see a band like Way Yes, and they'll come to that concert and also see Vada Azeem, Dominique Larue, and then also Sarah Gerard and Juliet Escoria,” Obenauf said. “The idea is to discover new things in the process.”

“It's more about discovery and the sharing of ideas. That idea of: find your next favorite band [or] find your next favorite author,” Konitzer said.

“We wanted there to be this element of discovery. [The lineup] has been curated. We've been very practical and selective,” Obenauf said. “Artists want that added exposure. They might be used to headlining a show in town that they promote to their mailing list, but with this, they're paired or grouped with writers who are bringing people to hear their work, or hip-hop acts. … There's a natural symbiosis.”

There is a purpose and timeliness to this desired exchange of ideas and the overlap of creativity that is, hopefully, in the eyes of the organizers, being generated by Flyover.

“This festival is not political, but on a very personal scale, after the election last fall, the only way I fought through that fog, I started asking, ‘What can I be doing?'” Obenauf said. “Instead of doing something negative or being against something, [I asked], ‘What can I be doing that's positive?' And this is an extension of that.”

“I see Flyover as this lively, interesting, positive festival, with unique things going on that are super badass,” Gregory said.

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