By Karen Borta

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The 31st Main St. Fort Worth Arts Festival kicked off Thursday morning. It’s four days of art, music, food and fun in the heart of downtown Fort Worth.

It started in 1986 as a way to draw people to the shops and restaurants in downtown Fort Worth, and highlight local artists at the same time. Now, it has an annual economic impact of more than $28 million, and artists from all over the country vie to have their work included in the festival, although only a fraction of them succeed. Out of nearly 1,500 applicants, only 208 are chosen to exhibit their art.

Fort Worth artist David Conn is one of the lucky ones. This is his second year as an exhibitor at the Main St. Fort Worth Arts Festival, and last year he received the Merit Award in printmaking.

Conn’s art starts out rather simply — with pictures that he takes of nature. But it’s what he does with them that’s breathtaking. He transfers an enlarged image to a piece of plain grey linoleum, and then begins to chip away. They are the first steps in the printmaking process.

“I can’t add black,” said Conn, as he carved out the tiniest of pieces from his latest work. “But I can carve out to make light passages, to make those subtle values of gray. And there is no gray because it’s all black and white, so it has to do with marks and direction.”

It was on an elementary school field trip when Conn first glimpsed the woodcut prints of 16th century German Renaissance artist Albrecht Durer. And that glimpse changed his life.

“I didn’t know what it was, but it was at a museum, and I disturbed a whole class because I was stuck looking at this thing,” recalled Conn. “And I bless the curator of education, because she took me aside and explained to me what this was. And I said, ‘I don’t know what that is, but I’m going to do that.'”

And “do that” he has. Conn has not only spent his life working as an artist and printmaker, he was a professor emeritus for 40 years, teaching the craft to art students at TCU.

Conn has had his work shown in more than 100 exhibitions around the world, but he knows that Fort Worth is the place to be.

“When I talk to artists,” said Conn, “they love the destination of Fort Worth. It’s one of the most popular ones, one of the hardest ones to get into, the Main St.”

That’s something that festival attendees can appreciate, too. For four days this weekend, an estimated 400,000 people are expected to browse — and buy — some amazing art, spread out over 27 city blocks. And that’s not to mention all the food and the dozens of musical groups that help make the Main St. Fort Worth Arts Festival one of USA Today’s top 10 art festivals in the country.

The Main St. Fort Worth Arts Festival runs from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Thursday, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Sunday. The TRE will be running a special schedule of to help get visitors to and from the festival, utilzing the ITC station located only two blocks away from the festivities.

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