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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Annual Martian Arts Festival celebrates all things San Marcos art and music

Photo Courtesy of Eric Wendt
Golden Dawn Arkestra saxophone player Topaz McGarrigle performing at the Martian Arts Festival, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, at Maxwell, Texas.

Printed fabrics and disco balls strung across vendor’s booths, live painters painted colorful layers of neon paint onto canvases and local bands and musicians played at the seventh annual Martian Arts Festival this weekend.

The Martian Arts Fest is an annual arts festival hosted by Apogee Presents with about 40 bands performing across two stages on Sept. 21-23. This year’s festival included silent discos, art installations, live painters, vendors, workshops and camping hosted at Southern Star Farms, a 3,000-plus-square-foot space in San Marcos that hosts events.

“The reason why we call it Martian Arts Festival is that we want to highlight the arts aspect of our community,” Michael Howard, the founder of Martian Arts Fest and Texas State alumnus, said. “I never wanted to just be big about only the music. I try to incorporate all facets of art, whether it be vendors, craftsmen, live painters, glass blowers, everything like that.”

Howard hosted the first Martian Arts Fest in a local backyard in 2016. The festival predates Apogee presents, an event organizer group led by Howard.

“The term Apogee means reaching your highest point, your climax,” Howard said. “The way we like to phrase it is like, Apogee represents the culmination of community. So we try to bring in the live music scene, the electronic music scene, the artists – every asset and every facet of the community.”

The annual event went on hiatus during COVID-19 but returned to its scheduled routine last year. Howard said while they reach out to different collaborators outside of the local scene, the heart of the event is highlighting local talent.

Erica Simmons, the executive director of Southern Star Farms, is from Dallas but now resides in San Marcos. Simmons said when planning events, she strives for it to be personable.

“We want each experience to be unique and we want to tailor it to each person’s needs,” Simmons said. “It’s definitely the attempt and the goal to make every event as successful as possible in that person’s eyes and that person’s perspective.”

Simmons said she met her husband at a festival and has spent years traveling to many festivals. 

“This has a very San Marcos vibe,” Simmons said. “It feels like San Marcos locals. It feels like San Marcos local art. It feels like the people that are just genuine, kind, open and engaging. That’s one thing I love about San Marcos.”

Will Ross, a gallery facilitator for the festival, did some live painting during the event as well as helped place the art on the different art installation walls in preparation for the weekend. 

Ross said on one wall he was going for a natural and organic feel whereas the other wall was meant to feel more psychedelic. The center wall of the gallery had a projector that used technology called projection mapping and lightform to scan and create visuals on top of the art.

Local photographer Christopher Paul Cardoza has been attending and documenting Martian Arts Fest since the first year and has seen the evolution and shifts that have taken place throughout the years. 

Cardoza said he has continued to see an increase in terms of size and ambition since year one.

“That’s why I’ve covered it,” Cardoza said. “Because [Howard] tries to stay true to the root of what San Marcos is about: art, music, community. It’s as simple as that. I just love them and I believe in their vision.”

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