Originally created 09/17/06

Youthful infusion



Now in its 26th year, the Arts in the Heart of Augusta festival is trying to grow younger as it gets older.

This year, many of the changes to the festival - a microbrew beer garden, fine tuning the Art 45 feature and booking local rock, pop and country acts - have been instituted to attract a new kind of festival patron.

"We've always been very strong with the family audience and very strong with a mature audience that has been coming for 25 years," said Brenda Durant, the executive director of the Greater Augusta Arts Council, the festival's organizing body.

"What's been hard to reach is what we call the 'unreachable' audience, the younger audience that listens to XM (Satellite Radio), doesn't watch the news and might not read much. We wanted to build a festival with features they might hear about and find appealing."

Ms. Durant credited Soul Bar owner Coco Rubio for some of the success. Mr. Rubio was given the freedom to program the community stage, and he filled it with many acts that have become popular playing late-night gigs at local bars and nightclubs.

"I think Arts in the Heart is great and always has been great," Mr. Rubio said. "I just thought it could be a little better, that it could be tweaked a little bit. The thing I had always wanted to see was more live music."

Among the acts he tapped are Athens band Modern Skirts, who played Friday night, and local bands Camouflage Spaceship, The Cubists and Blue Collar/Blue Heart, appearing today.

Before last year's festival, Augusta artist Jay Jacobs approached the Arts in the Heart steering committee with the idea of having local artists paint, marathon-style, for 45 hours straight at the festival. This year, his idea has been fine-tuned, with artists representing a younger demographic and small pieces being put up for sale.

"Last year we were a novelty," Mr. Jacobs said. "This year, it's bringing people out. It's gratifying. I'd like to think it has become an important part of the festival becoming just a little more progressive and a little more hip."

Clare Welsh, 28, represents the sort of patron Arts in the Heart is trying to attract.

Though she has attended in the past, she said much of the entertainment wasn't very appealing.

"I don't care about cloggers," she said. "I appreciate them, but it isn't the reason I'm here. The beer, the art, the food and the music, those are the things we come out for."

Sitting beside her, a plate of exotic food in his lap, Adam Fulgham nodded his head in agreement.

"I'd might come down anyway," he said. "But this is really nice."

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

IF YOU GO

What: Arts in the Heart of Augusta

When: Noon to 7 p.m. today

Where: Augusta Common on 800 block on Broad and Reynolds streets

Cost: $5 for a badge, good for entire festival

For More Information: www.artsintheheart.com

Road closures and alternate routes will be in effect until 9 p.m. today.