The annual North Charleston Arts Fest is just 3 weeks away, set to take place April 28-May 2. The celebration of arts and culture returns for its 38th year after being cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Highlighting the talents of regional and local artists and performers in the areas of dance, music, theatre, visual arts, and literature, the event features performances, activities, and exhibits presented in a variety of venues throughout the city of North Charleston. Virtual programming has also been added to this year’s festival schedule. The majority of festival events are free. Complete details about the five-day event are available at NorthCharlestonArtsFest.com.
Recognized by the Southeast Tourism Society as a Top 20 Event in both 2008 and 2018, the North Charleston Arts Fest includes concerts ranging from classical to contemporary, theatre presentations, dance performances, children’s programs, workshops, demonstrations, exhibitions, and more. Note that principal events such as the World Art Expo at Riverfront Park and Children’s Festival will not take place in 2021. With budget and health concerns lingering as a result of the pandemic, this year’s programming won’t appear as robust as in years past, but the City of North Charleston’s Cultural Arts Department staff has worked hard to make this year’s North Charleston Arts Fest both entertaining and safe. All patrons are reminded to wear a face covering and practice social distancing when attending events and exhibitions in person.
Exhibit Hall A at the Charleston Area Convention Center will once again host the Arts Fest’s Judged Art & Photography, South Carolina Palmetto Hands Fine Craft, and Tri-County Youth Art & High School Sculpture Exhibitions during the entire run of the Arts Fest, April 28-May 2. Viewing hours are Wednesday, April 28, 6-8pm (opening celebration); Thursday-Saturday, April 29-May 1, 10am-6pm; and Sunday, May 2, noon-5pm. The Exhibition Encore on Sunday, May 2, from noon-5pm, serves as a closing reception and celebration, allowing patrons to view the artwork in a festive atmosphere and make final decisions on purchases. In addition to the vast array of artwork on display, the event offers musical entertainment, live art demonstrations, and complimentary “bites and bubbles” from 2-5pm.
Other visual art highlights include Loose Parts, a solo exhibit at Park Circle Gallery featuring new paintings by the Arts Fest’s poster design competition winner Christine Bush Roman, the 15th Annual National Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition installed at North Charleston Riverfront Park, and the 14th Annual African American Fiber Art Exhibition: SANKOFA on display at North Charleston City Hall. Each of these exhibitions will remain on view well after the festival concludes on May 2.
Theatre, music, and dance offerings during this year’s Arts Fest run the gamut. Concerts range from bossa nova and bluegrass, to opera and Motown, and take place in a variety of venues, from wine bars and pubs to chapels and parks. A special Dance Showcase on the grounds of the Felix Davis Community Center will be held from 2-5pm on Saturday, May 1. Much like the popular dance stage at the Arts Fest’s World Art Expo, the event highlights traditional, folk, and modern dances of cultures from around the world by local performers in vibrant costumes. Lady in White Productions will offer a three night run of Real Woman Blues from Friday April 30, through Sunday, May 2. The original play, written and directed by local artist Samelia Adams, takes audiences on a sisterhood journey and explores the many facets of being a woman and the ups and downs that come with life, such as love, family, broken relationships, friendships, domestic violence, self-esteem, and self-worth. The production also features new music written by the band Season, under the direction of Duane Branch. Several children’s programs will be offered virtually through a partnership with Charleston County Public Library. And, of course, the performing and visual arts come together at the Arts Fest Arty Block Party on Friday, April 30, from 5-8:30pm on East Montague Avenue. The socially distanced street market features vendor booths with local artists, makers, and arts-related businesses and organizations, live music by The Louie D. Project and Amani Smith & the Give Thanks Band, along with roving entertainers.
Complete information on all 2021 North Charleston Arts Fest offerings and participation opportunities is available at NorthCharlestonArtsFest.com. Applications are currently being accepted for vendor space at the Arty Block Party. Entry instructions for the Festival’s Judged Fine Art Exhibition, Judged Photography Exhibition, Tri-County Youth Art Exhibition, and Tri-County High School Sculpture Exhibition, as well as volunteer sign-up forms are also available. Forms can be downloaded at NorthCharlestonArtsFest.com/apply.