Thousands of people crowded downtown streets for Arts in the Heart of Augusta on Friday, celebrating the city’s ethnic diversity and local talent through musical performances, good food and unique art projects.
The festival, now in its 35th year, features 135 artists and showcases the cultural flavor of 25 different countries. More than 700 volunteers
helped to organize the three-day event, setting up stages and readying equipment.
Rhian Swain, a representative of the Red Wolf marketing firm helping to publicize the festival, said the festival is meant to expose the Southeast to the talented artists and varied populations living in the Augusta area.
“We have people that come from across the Southeast to attend this festival, and we want to show them the thriving arts and cultural scene located here,” Swain said. “We’re well known for the Masters golf tournament. We should also be known for
The festival drew artists showcasing a variety of skills, including woodworking, blade smithing and oil painting. Local musicians and dancers performed for crowds at five stages throughout the festival area, with performances ranging from jazz to Celtic folk music.
Around the Augusta Common, cultural organizations offered attendees a glimpse into their ethnic practices, cooking meals from their mother countries while dressed in traditional clothing.
Many vendors, particularly those manning booths expressing their cultural traditions, said the festival offered them a rare opportunity to show Georgia residents a new side of Augusta.
Shelia Kamath, who has operated a booth focusing on India’s traditional foods at the festival since 1995, said the festival let her
“shine a light” on her heritage.
“It takes a lot of work to do this year after year. … We’ve been cooking in 12-hour shifts for four days to get our meals ready, and we have 210 volunteers helping us,” Kamath said. “But it’s definitely worth it for us. We’re a small Southern town, but we have many different ethnicities here. If we didn’t have something like Arts in the Heart, so many people would miss how diverse our city is.”
Those attending the festival said the mix of art styles and culture made the event unique compared to other events in Georgia.
Terrell Hankerson, who was attending the Arts in the Heart festival for the first time, said he “really liked the mix” it brought to his home city.
“It’s really nice to see something like this here. We have good food, music and new cultures to experience,” Hankerson said. “I know I’m going to have a good evening.”