With thousands of Ohio University students poised to flood into town next week, Athens is holding its last festival of the summer this weekend. With an arts component added to an annual late-summer uptown music festival, the newly hatched Athens Community Arts & Music Festival takes place Friday and Saturday at multiple venues around town.
The highlight of the two-day festival is an all-day free block party/outdoor fest on the main uptown block of West Union Street (between South Court and South Congress), featuring art, music, food and beer.
Another artistic addition to the formerly known Athens Community Music Festival is an opening reception presented by the Athens Photographic Project, from 5-7:30 p.m. Friday at the Athens Parking Garage on East Washington Street. The free reception will highlight the “Me & Mine” wheatpaste exhibition of art by Athens County youth, and will include light refreshments and a food cart, with the Large Mouth Brass Band performing at 7 p.m.
On both Friday and Saturday evenings after the outdoor events have finished up, the main music component of the Athens Community Arts & Music Festival will kick in, with several uptown live-music venues each presenting a lineup of bands and performers. This is similar to the set-up with past Athens Community Music Festivals, except expanded from one to two nights.
IN EMAIL INTERVIEWS EARLIER this week, the two main organizers of the new festival, Kelly Lawrence of ARTS/West and Scott Winland of Blackout Booking, talked about the expanded event.
“The Athens Community Arts & Music Festival is more of an expansion, or maybe better yet, an absorption,” Lawrence explained. “Scott and I are both commissioners on the Athens Municipal Arts Commission, and we took on the task of creating an arts event for the city together. Since ACMF was happening during this time, in the evenings, we thought it would great to include it into the event we were planning for the daytime hours.”
Winland agreed, adding, “Moving forward we hope to include even more arts events (and venues) inside of the same weekend. That said, the indoor stages still exist at the individual venues, but we've also added visual arts, dance and poetry along with a new outdoor stage.”
Lawrence said the Arts Commission wanted to hold an event that celebrates Athens’ richness in art and artists. “In order to do that, we needed to create a festival atmosphere for all involved to shine,” she said. “With the backing of the city of Athens and Hocking College's School of Music, we are able to offer an event that has a stage, art vendors and arts non-profits. We are then able to include many different forms of arts – performance and visual.”
Lawrence offered more information about the parking garage event late Friday afternoon and early evening. She explained that the youth program with the Athens Photographic Project has been working on its “Me & Mine” wheatpaste exhibit all summer at ARTS/West.
“They have been using wheat paste to attach photos to the building to test the process,” she said. “The parking garage art opening on (Friday) will be an unveiling of the large-format photos that will be mounted on the side of the garage.” (Some of the young artists already were mounting their art on the brick wall of the parking garage Tuesday afternoon, with help from volunteers and parents.)
This event takes place on the East Washington Street side of the parking garage at street level.
Winland elaborated on the festival’s indoor-music component, which is similar to the set-up at past ACMFs. As in the past, he said the indoor stages (at Casa Cantina, the Union Bar, Jackie O’s and Donkey Coffee) will be fundraisers with proceeds going to the Stuart's Opera House Afterschool Music Program (AMP), The Gathering Place and ARTS/West. The sale of beer at the festival’s main stage during the West Union block party/festival Saturday also will benefit the AMP, he said.
“Another cool thing about the fest this year is that those indoor stages happen over two nights now, instead of just one,” said Winland. “Both Friday and Saturday nights feature live music in multiple venues.”
Asked what musical highlights can be expected at the festival, Winland replied, “I believe we've put together a pretty special bunch of performers this year. It would be tough to pick one or two, but here's a few. On the main stage we have some great music starting at 3 p.m. Saturday – Mourning (A) Blkstar, Wesley Bright and the Honeytones, Stella, Mobile Home, Hellnaw and the Adam Remnant Band.
“Then of course, on the ACMF stages around town we've got just about every type of music you could ask for... bluegrass, hip-hop, rock, jazz, folk, punk, indie-rock, metal, etc.,” Winland said. “That's just the music, of course. What's truly special about this year's fest is that we're including a more well-rounded representation of the arts in our area and hope to see this grow in the coming years.”
Lawrence talked more about Saturday’s block party component of the two-day event. She said a performance stage will be erected at the South Congress Street end of the West Union Street block, with art vendors and arts non-profits lining the street. Beer sales (Jackie O’s) and food carts will be set up at the South Court end of the block.
“We are hoping that over the years, as the event grows, we will have more and more color and arts fill the streets of Athens,” Lawrence said. “I would also add that between Jackie O's and The Union as music venues, we've got somewhat of an arts district on Union Street, and with the addition of the new benches and extended sidewalk areas outside, I think it is a great location for a street fair.”
Lawrence said the event is being sponsored by Hocking College School of Music, Jackie O's, The Union, Union Street Market, Zonez and Athens Art Guild. Partners are the Athens Municipal Arts Commission, city of Athens, Athens Photographic Project, Stuart's Opera House, and Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Winland explained how the ACMF has been weaved into the bigger Arts & Music Festival.
“To be clear, the ACMF is simply a part of this bigger weekend now,” he said. “It would be 20 years old this year, and has always been a celebration of music and music venues in Athens. I had always envisioned teaming up with visual artists to grow the event into something much bigger that better represented all arts in Athens, and through AMAC, and Kelly Lawrence specifically, we've been able to start to realize that goal.”
Lawrence served as event coordinator at ARTS/West for 10 years, and is a founding member of the Athens Art Guild. She currently directs the local nonprofit Ratha Con: Athens Own Pop Culture Convention.
Winland, meanwhile, has been booking bands at The Union Bar since 1996, and in addition, coordinates the music program at Hocking College.
ACM&AF Schedule of Events
Friday, 5-7:30: Athens Photographic Project presents an opening reception at the Athens Parking Garage for the “Me & Mine” wheatpaste exhibition of art by Athens County youth. Light refreshments and Holy Guacamole food cart. Large Mouth Brass Band performs at 7 p.m. Free event. The art was created this summer by a dozen local youth artists. The 2018 Youth Photo Project is a partnership between Athens Photo Project, the 317 Board, Hopewell Health Center and the Athens County Juvenile Probate Court.
Friday, 9 p.m. till closing: Bands performing at three different stages at Casa Cantina, Donkey Coffee and The Union, featuring sets by The County Pharaohs, Acrylic Grooves, Slugg, Tailwinds, Red Lake, Caution Step and more.
Saturday, noon to 9 p.m.: The main festival takes place on West Union Street between Congress and Court streets, featuring visual artists from the Athens Art Guild and Paper Circle of Nelsonville selling their artwork and arts non-profits offering information on their organizations and arts activities. Dr. May’s Thai Kitchen and the Cajun Clucker will be on hand selling their food, and Stuart’s Opera House will be selling Jackie O’s beer to raise funds for their After School Music program. From noon to 3 p.m., a variety of local and visiting artists will be performing on a stage, including OVST, Ugata West African drum and dance, Athens Poet Laureate Kari Gunter-Seymour Peterson introducing two visiting poets, and more. At 3 p.m. the main stage shifts its focus to music featuring headliners Wesley Bright and The Honeytones, along with Adam Remnant Band, Stella, Hellnaw, Mourning A Blkstar and Mobile Home.
Saturday, 9 p.m. till closing: Bands performing at three different stages at Casa Cantina, Jackie O’s Coffee and The Union, featuring sets by Coal Cave Hollow Boys, Slag Pile, Bret Anderson, Weird Science, Slackluster, Peach Fuzz, Colleen Carow, and more