A different kind of hurricane relief

Arts in the Heart festival set to drive out remaining darkness

Today kicks off the 37th Arts in the Heart of Augusta festival downtown. And perhaps the only one of the first 36 that we needed more was the one right after 9/11.

 

While Hurricane Irma’s impact was felt much more acutely in Florida and elsewhere, it still cast a shadow of foreboding and anxiety over the Augusta area – not to mention felling trees and cutting power to thousands.

This is utterly perfect timing for Arts in the Heart. Had it been scheduled last weekend, the approaching hurricane’s shadow would’ve descended on us even while the sun shone. As it is, the festival kicking off tonight at Augusta Common from 5-9 p.m. and continuing Saturday (11-9) and Sunday (noon-7) will bring gladness, color, music, food and more to the end of a stressful week.

What a relief! It’s the same healing ointment organizers knew the post-Sept. 11 festival would be.

Joy is never a bad thing, and in fact is most suitable when we need it the most.

In this case it’s not a bad deal, either: If you don’t already have one, a $12 badge at the entrance nets you an entire weekend of arts and entertainment and a world of food and drink to sample. Arts in the Heart has become fam-ous throughout the region for its international food village, featuring tastes from Greece to Guam, Germany to Jamaica, India to Ireland, Thailand, Trinidad, Turkey and more.

No media-bashing here, either: Just about every medium will be represented by the 150 artists from across the country exhibiting their creations.

The performance art will be electric and eclectic – every bit as diverse and varied as the food. Across five stages, you’ll see and hear everything from jazz to country to international tunes, and even spoken-word performances. There’ll be national acts, regional acts – as part of the six-city “ExploreGeorgia.org Songwriter Series” – and local ones such as The Bonaventures (6:30 p.m. Saturday on the Community Stage), a local journeyman band covering early rock and punk from such artists as Al Green, Delbert, Prince and The Byrds. They’ve written a few of their own too.

To add to Arts in the Heart’s great timing, this year’s festival happily coincides with the ceremonial “relighting” of the Miller Theater’s reconditioned marquee, at 8 p.m. tonight at 708 Broad St. It will be the first time the old girl, which is being refurbished in time for a Jan. 6 gala reopening, will be lit up for some three decades.

That’s just a small part of how Arts in the Heart will drive out any of Irma’s remaining darkness.

Just think of it. Seven days ago, this area was bracing for what might’ve been our first full-fledged hurricane in years – not knowing what might become of our homes, businesses or even our loved ones. This weekend we’ll be celebrating the best of what life, humanity and diversity have to offer.

What a difference a week makes.

What a difference the arts make.

 

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