With a fresh set of eyes and a renewed focus, the Westerville Music and Arts Festival aims to keep adapting to central Ohio's increasingly competitive summer festival season.

With a fresh set of eyes and a renewed focus, the Westerville Music and Arts Festival aims to keep adapting to central Ohio's increasingly competitive summer festival season.

The Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce's annual festival has existed for more than 40 years, but coordinator Malcolm Kates has only been in his position for about a year. He said he took over the job about a week before the 2015 festival, and the experience of jumping into his first festival was a valuable one.

"It allowed me to, right off the bat, come in with a fresh set of eyes and identify a number of areas we really wanted to focus on this year," he said.

Kates said he came in with a set of priorities. He said he wants to ensure visitors enjoy the festival "whether they've been coming for 30 years or are brand new," continue to develop a "sustainable model" with sponsors and make sure the artists have a good experience and are comfortable with "the integrity" of the festival's juried art show.

"It's easy when you're coming in with a business focus to make sure you're taking care of what you need to take care of in that sense, but it's also important to be mindful of other art shows out there and make sure we're still a respected art show in that regard," he said.

Jan Fedorenko, who is one of the panel organizers for the art side of the show, said the respect for the show in the region has seen a huge uptick in her 10 years of involvement.

"I think it's just the overall growth of Westerville," she said. "What people are seeing is things that have really helped the festival become larger. I think the quality of work is much stronger and we're getting more known artists and more local artists."

Several Westerville artists are among those selected this year.

Photographers Glover Shearron Jr. and David Stichweh, mixed-media artist Ginny Baughman, custom enamel designer Dan McCann and ceramics artist Matt Watterson all represent the Westerville area, and the festival prides itself on having local art.

Fedorenko and other judges don't just look at quality and presentation. They also want to cater to their audience, bringing in artists whose work will be accessible to visitors at the festival.

"We want to look at what is going to be affordable to our folks," she said. "We want the artists to be able to sell their work, of course, and want to be sure it gets the price it deserves. But we also want people to be able to come buy the art."

As the festival grows, Kates said he hopes it can maintain its $1 entry fee by operating more efficiently and more intelligently.

"In business, you have to evolve and move forward. This is a business like any other."

The Westerville Music and Arts Festival begins with a special Uptown Westerville evening from 5 to 9 p.m. throughout the Uptown district Friday, July 8. The official festival runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, July 9, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, July 10, at Heritage Park, 60 N. Cleveland Ave.

For more information, visit westervillechamber.org.

@ThisWeekAndrew