Downtown arts fest celebrates 21 years on Orange Street

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Courtesy image.
Courtesy image.

A longstanding local downtown fair will come of age this Memorial Day weekend.

When the Orange Street ArtsFest sets up along its namesake Saturday morning, it will mark the 21st year the event has brought craftsmen and the community together.

The two-day festival will take place on Orange between Front and Second streets, next to the Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center. Some of the more than 80 exhibitors will also be inside Hannah Block and on Second.

One of the city’s largest arts events of its kind, Orange Street ArtsFest is annually hosted by Thalian Association Community Theater (TACT), which is housed in the Hannah Block center. TACT, which was established in 1788, stands today as one of the oldest community theater and non-profit arts education groups in the nation.

The family-friendly festival’s aim is to showcase the talents of area artists – oil and watercolor paintings, pottery, jewelry, metal arts and paper creations – while also entertaining crowds with a variety of performers and musicians.

Hourly music and dance performances from instructors at Hannah Block will take place along the Orange Street Stage. Anevay Dance Company, El Jaye Johnson, Flor-Y-Canto, Revolver Music and Rhythm and Grits are slated to perform, and TACT will present selections from the upcoming 2016-17 Thalian Hall and youth productions.

Catch, Poor Piggy’s BBQ, North Carolina Sweet Tea and Snowy of the Carolinas will serve up food and drinks each day.

The annual juried exhibition will be judged again this year by longtime Wilmington resident 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 across the county, alongside the center’s wartime exhibits, including memorials to Wilmington’s two Medal of Honor recipients.

And TACT will partner for the second year with nationally award-winning after-school program, DREAMS of Wilmington, which will showcase multi-media work from its students. The Children’s Museum of Wilmington will join the festivities for the first time, bringing along various hands-on stations for kids to do science experiments and build with foam blocks, as well as offer the entire family a chance to make art together.

Orange Street ArtsFest will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.