Originally created 09/23/04

Art festivals need to return focus to Augusta area's art



It's hard to argue with the facts and figures of the Arts in the Heart of Augusta festival. Not only did this year's event seemingly succeed in scaring off Ivan's storm clouds that threatened to wash the proceedings away but it also attracted thousands of patrons and raised an estimated $20,000 for the Greater Augusta Arts Councils programs. In a bottom-line world, that's a success.

But I'm not really a bottom line kind of guy. I mean sure, I'd love for every event to operate in the fiscal black but not if it means undermining intentions and potential.

I'd like to see the Arts in the Heart of Augusta festival become an arts festival once again.

Before angry nay-sayers pick up their phones, let me explain. Yes, there is still a fine arts and crafts market that routinely features high-quality work. And yes, there are still performance stages, which feature music and cultural performances. Missing, however, is a strong presence by Augusta's performing arts community.

Once upon a time, this festival served as a sneak preview, a venue for theater, dance and music ensembles, to give potential audiences a taste of what they had planned for the coming season. Today, they are vague shadows, selling tickets from card tables instead of selling themselves from the stage.

Now, I'm not saying the performing arts should be included at the exclusion of things that are obviously working. The cultural performances remain an important fixture, for both the participants and the audience.

The same can be said for the art market and the food booths. Chicken-on-a-stick, be it curry or Cajun-style, is an important part of the Arts in the Heart experience.

But the festival seems to have lost sight of an important performance component. This is, after all, the Arts in the Heart of Augusta festival, not the Cultures in the Heart of Augusta festival. The arts, performing and visual, were once the foundation off which this festival was built. They also fuel the Greater Augusta Arts Council, which throws the annual shindig.

It's a shame that they seem to be given a short shrift.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.