A smaller lineup for the 2011 Westobou Festival and a central headquarters contributed to a smooth-running 10 days of events, say festival organizers, who added that these are just two of the ideas they are likely to continue in future years.
“I couldn’t be more pleased,” Westobou Chairman Cameron Nixon said of the festival, which ended Saturday. “I love the result of our focus on higher-quality events.”
In previous years, the festival featured as many as 200 concerts, art exhibits and theater shows at venues across the city.
The parade grounds at the Old Richmond Academy on Telfair Street, which served as a Westbou concert venue for the first time, anchored this year’s festival downtown while a few other venues, including the Maxwell Theatre at Augusta State University, held other events, Nixon said.
“People are less confused. People are enjoying a lot more events because they can get around logistically,” said Molly McDowell, Westobou’s artistic coordinator.
Big-name acts Rosanne Cash and Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings played on the stage at the parade grounds while local bands played other nights, McDowell said. The outdoor venue attracted crowds each night, with nearly 500 people attending Cash’s show, she said.
“Sitting on the grass under the stars listening to live music outdoors; it was just a special night,” Nixon said after Cash’s performance.
While the parade grounds could likely anchor the festival again, Nixon said he would like the Augusta Common to be included as a future venue.
Tickets sold out for two events: a night with National Public Radio host Ira Glass at the Maxwell Theatre and a jazz concert by Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo featuring Augusta native Jessye Norman at Imperial Theatre, Nixon said.
“Augusta art patrons are hungry for quality art. Especially in a global sense, all our events are trying to meet that hunger. That event nailed it,” Nixon said of the Marsalis concert.
A lecture by Glass exemplified the festival’s ability to attract names that would not likely come to Augusta but were well-received by the audience, he said. Westobou can provide the high-quality art that people sometimes do not think Augusta will support, he said.
“We have high expectations for ticket sales and community involvement. Every year we would like to be better at that,” Nixon said.
Ticket sales for many of the events are handled by the various art groups that sponsor events. A town hall meeting with the art groups likely will be held later in the year to gather feedback, he said.
Nixon said he hopes ticket sales will grow in coming years as people become more familiar with the festival.
The festival was held weeks later this year than previously when it coincided with Augusta’s Arts in the Heart festival. The later time helped schedule some of acts that begin touring in October, such as the ballet group Momix Dance Theatre, Nixon said.