With quite a flourish, the arts took center stage at several downtown Newton businesses Thursday as part of the annual Art and Music in the Heart of Newton event.

Performers packed several stores along Main Street, whether it was members of the Bethel College Academy of Performing Arts at the Et Cetera Shop or the Newton Chorale singing at Gathered Goods (along with acts hosted at the Newton Public Library and Faith & Life Bookstore). Those who ventured into Prairie Harvest could be part of the entertainment themselves, as Everett Bradley led a drum circle that anyone could join.

Not to be outdone, the art took its fair share of the spotlight as well. Prairie Harvest displayed an exhibit of Civil War art by Chisholm Middle School students, while Clayworks Gallery was open for interested parties to come peruse its offerings.

Additionally, Carriage Factory Art Gallery played host to a number of artistic endeavors — from an exhibit of work by Slate Creek, South Breeze (elementary schools) and Halstead High School students to a silent auction of pieces to help raise funds for the Newton Murals and Arts Project. Just across the street, the work of the latter was highlighted as a dedication was held for the Sunflower Mural as part of Art and Music in the Heart of Newton.

Highlighting the work of several parties who contributed to the mural installation, Mayor Kathy Valentine — who noted she drives by it often — also spoke to the message the mural sends.

"I always am stopped, just for a moment in time, when I look up because it's so encouraging," Valentine said. "It's colorful. It's warm and peaceful."

Encouraged by the art on display downtown Thursday, Valentine and others are hopeful it is just the start of more to come.