Originally created 09/22/05

Little patrons were left in dust of Augusta's cultural celebration



The Greater Augusta Arts Council will be the first to admit that its annual Arts in the Heart of Augusta festival is a work in progress that continues to grow, evolve and shift as time, money and geography permit or demand.

This year, it tackled the challenges of more artists, new stage locations and a new literary presence with aplomb, managing to find suitable activities and an accessible space for every taste.

Unless, of course, you're a kid.

The children's area, a loose collective of educational arts and crafts booths, was exiled to a dusty corner in the far reaches of the festival site. Those who found the child-friendly activities often arrive red-faced and tired, forced to navigate the labyrinth of arts and craft booths set up on loose stone and soft dirt. It was a little tough on foot, very difficult if burdened with a stroller.

The other problem is its narrow, if admirable focus. Each station featured an arts and crafts project with a vague cultural connection.

Children were invited to make and decorate a paper three-corner hat or "funeral" fan using traditional materials such as glitter, glue and marker. Given the sultry temperatures, the fans probably were a popular item.

Beyond that, the kids' area was a bust. Sure, stretching little minds with the heady cocktail of creativity and history is noble, but sometimes the smaller set just wants to cut loose.

I'm not suggesting that Arts in the Heart is the proper place for a full-fledged carnival, but I think allowing a little space for something big and bouncy might be worthwhile, as would festival favorites such as face-painting and balloon animals.

There was a bone thrown to older kids - the Coca-Cola Fun Zone, a tractor-trailer cavern laden with video game technology, kept the digital zombies satiated and enviably cooled. That appealed to a fairly specific audience, however, and left more excluded than served. A clown might not make your 6-year-old son any smarter, but it might make him happier, and on a hot day there's nothing more worthwhile than that.

It's important to remember that although the goal of Arts in the Heart of Augusta is to reflect the creative and cultural diversity found in the Augusta area, it also is a family event.

It's true that making every inch of the festival pleasantly paved might eliminate some of Arts in the Heart's roughshod charm, but a little more planning for the smallest patrons might not go amiss.

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