ArtsFest to hit downtown Wilmington this weekend is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

Image courtesy Thalian Association Community Theatre.
Image courtesy Thalian Association Community Theatre.

A longstanding Memorial Day weekend tradition is returning to downtown Wilmington.

Orange Street ArtsFest celebrates its 20th anniversary with this year’s event, which gets underway 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Both days, the family friendly street fair is staged on Orange Street between Front and Second streets, next to the Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center, with some exhibitors inside the building.

Presented by Thalian Association Community Theatre (TACT), Orange Street ArtsFest features more than 70 artists exhibiting oil and watercolor paintings, pottery, jewelry, metal arts and paper creations.

There will be live entertainment throughout the two-day event in front of the Hannah Block center. Anevay Dance Company, El Jaye Johnson, Dance with Me, Star Studded Voices and Susan Savia are all slated to perform, and TACT will present selections from past and future productions.

The annual juried exhibition will be judged this year by local Owen Wexler, an internationally known visual artist whose work has been featured on television and in film. Wexler will name the top three pieces and hand out four judges awards, with cash prizes totaling $550.

The festival will also highlight young talent with the return of the High School Student’s Art Contest Exhibition, presented by the Wilmington Art Association, in the community center lobby. The exhibition will feature the work of students from seven public and private high schools in New Hanover County.

For the first time in its 20-year history, the event will feature the nationally award-winning after-school program, DREAMS of Wilmington, which will showcase multi-media work from its students. And a special exhibit will showcase desks handpainted by fifth-graders at Gregory School of Science, Mathematics and Technology. The desks will be auctioned to benefit the Gregory’s art program.