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Celebrating Arts in Fairfax

Three-week festival showcases local arts talent.

Former Fairfax Mayor John Mason recalled the first Spotlight on the Arts event 18 years ago. It occurred over one weekend, and its purpose was to inform people of the area's cultural activities.

"There was no major cultural center in Northern Virginia," Mason said.

Spotlight on the Arts has grown from one weekend to three weeks in April and May. Sponsored by Fairfax City in partnership with George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College, this year's festival features over 75 different events at venues all over central Fairfax. From visual to performing to the decorative arts, Spotlight on the Arts exposes local artists and crafts people to the wider community.

The mission of Spotlight on the Arts, which is also a non-profit umbrella organization for area arts groups, is to enhance awareness of existing cultural opportunities and spotlight and cultivate new and young talent, Mason said.

"It's a two-fold mission that's very community-oriented," Mason said.

Among the varied events that will occur within the three-week span are a world premiere of "The Red Shoes," performed by the Virginia Ballet Company and based on a fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, an International Jewish Film Festival featuring over two dozen films from May 1 to 15, and the First Annual Old Town Fairfax Art Walk on April 26. Also on April 26 is the second annual Historic Fairfax City Homes Tour.

"It will be a nice stroll all through different locations in the city," said Spotlight on the Arts' executive director Eileen Wilkinson of the Art Walk.

The festival kicks off with a black-tie opening reception on April 25, and runs until May 18.

Organizers hope the festival, which has grown since last year, will draw crowds to see its events, most of them free.

"It's just a wonderful opportunity in our backyard," Wilkinson said.

For more information about Spotlight on the Arts, call 703-352-ARTS, or go to www.fairfaxspotlight.org.