Swedish group Väsen will perform during Lotus again this year. Courtesy photo


The growth of Lotus World Music & Arts Festival is a phenomenon that can only happen in a community like Bloomington, says Sara Sheikh, Lotus Education & Arts Foundation marketing director.

A lot has changed since the festival started in 1994, when it featured just 14 artists in three locations. This year, the festival’s 24th, nearly 12,000 people are expected to enjoy more than two dozen performances at seven downtown venues. One thing that’s stayed the same, however, is the festival’s mission: to celebrate the diversity of world music.

From September 28 to October 1, festival-goers will experience music from nearly 20 countries, including Ireland, Ethiopia, France, and Brazil. The festival will open with Swedish folk group Väsen, which Sheikh says is a fan favorite. Among the other artists expected are Venezuelan group Ladama, Trio da Kali from southern Mali, and British folk artist Rachel Sermann. “It’s like a passport, a little preview of the world,” Sheikh says. “It’s inspiring.”

Outreach Director Loraine Martin says there are many ways to access Lotus: “We have over 40 hours of free programming.” Free activities include programs for children, Lotus in the Park at Third Street Park, and the Arts Village on the corner of 6th and Walnut streets. Festival Unwind Yoga at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center will be available for a suggested $10 donation, which includes admission to the Sunday World Spirit concert.

The festival’s visual arts component will incorporate a storytelling theme in the form of crankies. A cranky is a visual storytelling aid consisting of an illustrated scroll stretched in a frame. The scroll is turned with a crank while the story is sung for the audience. The Lotus Foundation and Rhino’s Youth Center recently held a two-part workshop in which participants created a cranky detailing the life of Quinten “Lotus” Dickey. The cranky will be performed at the opening concert. The organization is named, in part, for Dickey, as well as for the lotus flower, which blooms here and around the world. 

“The festival is a great celebration,” Sheikh says. “It’s an opportunity to experience things we might not get the chance to do or see or hear. ”

For more information, visit lotusfest.org.