Mesa artist Christopher Halloran believes the current economy is keeping people close to home, looking for things that don't require a lot of money.
Now Halloran, along with area artists and business owners, hopes that a new weekly arts festival in downtown Mesa will fill that need.
Beginning this weekend, MACFest will be held downtown 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday through the end of May. The arts festival will line the sidewalks along Main Street, between Sirrine and Morris.
Downtown merchants are being encouraged to use the space in front of their stores during the festival. This weekend, 29 area shop owners have reserved space.
Sam Shamoil, owner of Five Star D.J., 202 E. Main St., plans to have a disc jockey out front every Saturday. He said activity around his shop is usually slow on weekends and he hopes the festival will increase his exposure to many more people.
Kellie Huntington, co-owner of Sweet Cakes Café, 21 W. Main St., said her business will offer visitors an opportunity to dine outside and enjoy the activity. With MACFest, downtown is going to be "hopping" - especially when the snowbirds arrive, she added.
Huntington grew up in Mesa and can remember Saturday's downtown as busy and active, and she's hoping to see that activity return.
Artists expect MACFest to be unlike other festivals around the Valley.
Mesa artist Jacqueline Kahn said artists will be drawn to MACFest particularly because of the low cost for exhibition space. Other Valley art festivals can cost an artist as much as $300 a day, but MACFest is only $15, she noted.
Artists are required to obtain a $50 city tax license before reserving exhibition space.
Courtney Tjaden, festivals coordinator with the Mesa Arts Center, said the guiding principle of MACFest is to make it easy and affordable for artists to display and sell their works.
Area artists like Ron Floyd, president of the East Valley Artists Guild, said his group has noticed an increase in art awareness in the downtown area since Mesa Arts Center officials and other Mesa activists began trying to put together the event.
The guild recently leased the One-Oh-One Gallery on Main Street and began preparing for the festival's opening weekend.
"We took over the gallery because (downtown) is an emerging artist's area," Floyd said. "It sends signals to the Valley art community that we are confident that this event will work."
Food, live entertainment and other family events depend on local merchants and simultaneous events happening at Mesa Arts Center, the Arizona Museum for Youth and the Arizona Museum of Natural History, Tjaden said.
For instance, on Nov. 22, MACFest and Mesa Arts Center's Holiday Art & Music Festival will coincide, and artists and merchants hope that will bring a substantial number of people downtown.