Downtown Westport will be transformed into a multi-block art gallery on Thursday evening, May 22 -- one with live music, strolling street performers and food and beverages served at pop-up outdoor cafes.

Oh, and art -- lots of it.

The Thursday street festival from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. kicks off Art About Town, a three-week celebration of art. The Downtown Merchants Association's annual event will feature hundreds of original artworks and turn 60 shops and restaurants into galleries.

Main Street will be closed to traffic at 2 p.m. Thursday so it can be a pedestrian mall during the party, the merchants association said. Admission is free.

All works are juried, for sale, and will remain on display in stores and eateries until June 15, the merchants association said.

Musical attractions Thursday evening range from The Clams, a surf-music trio with its own troupe of go-go dancers, to Jam Theory, which includes members of the award-winning middle school band Marmalade Sky, according to a merchants association news release.

Other street entertainment will include dancers and gymnasts from the Westport Weston Family Y; dancers from Studio 44 and the Neighborhood Studio; stilt-walkers and other performers.

A highlight of the evening will be the unveiling of "Tunnel Vision," an art installation in the pedestrian passageway between Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza. The merchants association and Win Properties commissioned Westport artist Miggs Burroughs to create the art.

In the news release, Burroughs said he hopes his creation in the tunnel will "take people from point A to point B physically, and give them a rewarding emotional journey as well."

The tunnel will be closed Thursday from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m., when the project is unveiled.

Elsewhere downtown, local artists will demonstrate their techniques and explain their processes and where they find inspiration.

A mobile "Art Smart Museum" of artwork produced by the town's elementary-school students in the PTA-sponsored Art Smart program will be open for viewing.

The Westport Arts Center's family collaborative art project is typographical string art -- using nails hammered into boards and brightly colored string to create a giant message board.

The words "Connecting the Community" will span about 20 feet, according to the release. The Center plans to use boards again as an ongoing project as part of the upcoming Fine Arts Festival. Participants will be invited to use a colored string of their choice to weave a design around the nails. The collaborative nature of the project illustrates how the community is "connected" through the string, and how we can all take part and connect by creating something beautiful, the merchants group said.

For more information on Art About Town, including a complete list of participating merchants and exhibitors, visit