Of, By, For the Arts

Of, By, For the Arts

Local meets national for seven blocks.

The City's second annual Festival of the Arts will not only feature more artists but also will consume two more blocks of lower King Street, add a specific venue for local regional artists, bring live entertainment to the scene, and allow attendees to enjoy outside dining and artistic appreciation simultaneously on Saturday, Sept. 11.

"It's going to be even bigger and better than last year. If you enjoyed last year's event you're going to love it this year," said Jo Anne Mitchell, executive director and CEO, Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association (ACVA).

That was affirmed by Leon Scioscia, chair, Alexandria Commission on the Arts and chair of the Executive Planning Committee for the 2004 Festival. "I'm expecting a festival that's going to be much more lively, exciting and comprehensive than last year," he said.

"I'm also expecting it to attract a much broader spectrum of artists and entertainers from throughout both the country and the region. I'm really excited and pleased that we've already seen such growth in such a new festival. It is well on its way to becoming even bigger and better," he said.

This year's festival, which kicks off Alexandria's "Fall for the Arts" season, has added two additional blocks. The main Festival, produced by Howard Alan Events, Ltd., will now stretch from Union to Washington streets. Last year it ended at St. Asaph Street.

AS ADDED ATTRACTIONS, the block from Union Street to the river will highlight a juried show by 24 Northern Virginia artists. Sixteen of those are local artists. Alexandria Mayor William Euille will present the Best of Show award to the winner on Saturday afternoon, according to Laura Overstreet, vice president, communications, for ACVA.

Each of the regional artists will display one piece of their work which will be available for purchase during the show. "This new addition gives regional artists the opportunity to be exposed to a wider audience of art lovers," Overstreet said.

"There are some really strong works of art this year which I think are going to make it a great show. The submissions were excellent," said Claire Huschle, Target Galley, director, and community liaison, Torpedo Factory Art Center.

Complementing the juried regional artists show, the weekend festival will feature a regional performing artists program on City dock, behind the Torpedo Factory Art Center. Spotlighting an array of performers from singers to dancers to story tellers, it will offer entertainment from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 12.

In addition to the 24 regional artists featured in the specially juried show, approximately 20 of the more than 200 artists featured in the Alan show are from the Washington Metropolitan Region. As in 2003, artisans participating in the main show will display works in all mediums including painting, sculpture, jewelry, ceramics, crafts and photography.

"All of the work on display is available for purchase with prices ranging from $15 earrings to $50 prints to $20,000 sculptures. There's something for everyone," according to festival promotional literature.

"More than 500 applications were received this year for just over 200 available spots. Over 30 states will be represented with artists from as far away as California, Colorado and Canada," Alan said.

The show will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Also a juried show, "each participating artist was hand-selected to ensure a first class festival with only the highest quality, original artwork," according to Alan.

Works at both the primary festival and those on display by regional artists in the special juried show are available for purchase. Referring to the local artists, Pat Miller, a member of the festival's executive committee, said, "We hope to be able to showcase these artists and sell their works for them."

In addition to being able to sell their works, the winner of Best in Show will receive a $300 prize, according to Miller. "There will also be three other prizes for second, third and fourth place. They will each get $100," Miller said.

"This is also the first time we will be able to actually pay the performers who will be performing on the dock. That will range between $50 and $150 depending on various factors," she said. "All of these things are being sponsored by Jack Taylor Toyota of Alexandria."

PROMOTING OTHER EVENTS tied to Alexandria's Fall for the Arts, as well as City events throughout the year will be a series of table-top displays in the walk-through area connecting Union Street to City Dock, according to Miller. "We also hope to provide activities and entertainment after the Alan show closes on Saturday night to entice people to stay in Old Town for dinner and enjoy the shops," she said.

Chairs will be provided on the dock in addition to the existing benches for people to enjoy the entertainment, Miller said. "The last performance on Saturday night will occur at approximately 8 p.m.," she said.

Adding to that relaxed atmosphere will be the opportunity to dine outside at various restaurants along King Street. "That way people can be dining while still enjoying the art show," said Janet Barnett, deputy director, Alexandria Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department.

"We are also emphasizing this year that all businesses along King Street are open. In fact many of the shops will be offering their merchandise at tables on the sidewalk outside their stores," she said.

"Volunteers and police will have printed information directing people to parking, restrooms and entertainment throughout the two days. This will also be done through signage throughout the festival area. We want to make this a good event for residents and businesses as well as tourists," Barnett said.

Those driving into the festival area will be directed to the various garages and parking lots in the immediate vicinity. Satellite lots will be used by vendors, according to Barnett. "We found last year that most people coming to the festival did not use the satellite lots. They either came by Metro or used the parking facilities closer in," she said.

No special parking rates have been established, according to Barnett. Rates will vary based on each facility. Reserved handicapped spaces will be located in the 100 block of South Royal Street and the 100 block of N. Pitt Street. These will be available on a first come basis, according to ACVA. Street parking time restrictions will be strictly enforced.

Alexandria's free "DASH About" weekend shuttle-bus service from the King Street Metro Station to the northeast corner of King and St. Asaph streets will be operating every 15 minutes from 7 p.m. to midnight Friday, Sept. 10; from 10 a.m. to midnight, Saturday, Sept. 11; and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 12.