The best balancing acts are the ones you never notice. The push and pull, the peaks and valleys – those things are often best when invisible. That’s particularly true when dealing with an event of any size or scale.
We all understand that most complicated happenings rarely go off without a hitch, but that doesn’t mean, as patrons, we are looking for those moments. Acknowledging what has gone wrong while in the moment rarely accomplishes anything except diminish what that moment might be. It also means that any compromises or sacrifices made, any definitive additions included or ideas discarded, any decision that might affect the overall perception of how an event functions should be invisible.
The result, in short, should look a lot like Arts in the Heart of Augusta.
Several years ago, organizers of this annual street party realized that the option to close off Broad Street was, in fact, viable. It was nothing less than a sea change – a total reinvention of what a local arts festival might look like. The improvements were – and remain – both deep and wide.
This year, as once and (hopefully) future Augusta fave Riff Raff Kings closed the event with a reminder to faithful fans how much fun their funky party rock could be, I asked Brenda Durant what might be.
Durant, who heads up the Greater Augusta Arts Council and Arts in the Heart, admitted that question is trickier, and more complicated, than expected. The reason – as Arts in the Heart grows, ensuring that it stays true to its roots and mission becomes both more difficult and important.
Motioning toward the stage, she remarked that in many ways, the Riff Raff Kings are the perfect Arts in the Heart act. The band hasn’t played in some years, producing demand. The band remains creative and engaging, ensuring the artistic excellence of the event. Most importantly – the Riff Raff Kings are, most decidedly, from Augusta. They are a beloved Augusta act uniquely capable of bringing together the disparate demographics that make Arts in the Heart such a unique event. The band, in fact, is a microcosm, for what makes Arts in the Heart remain viable after so many incarnations and years.
Arts in the Heart works because every decision made and every component approved is about striking a balance.
The event might change but its focus will not. Arts in the Heart will remain an event primarily produced by, featuring and targeted toward this community.
Sure, there will be out-of-town acts, but they will perform with the understanding that the stage they share will also feature local performers.
Yes, the event will continue to attract artists from a variety of places and traditions – but each is selected with the understanding that their work is something that Augustans might find appealing. The event will grow. Its popularity will grow. Its draw will grow. But its goal will remain not static but steadfast.
Arts in the Art is about Augusta – bringing it together, inspiring it and, most importantly, showing it to others and ourselves in the best possible light.
Long may it run.