The Carolina Beach Street Arts Festival had humble beginnings. What started as a “Big Block Print Party” four years ago has evolved into an all-day event hosted by the Island Arts and Culture Alliance (IACA). More than 100 local artists, musical performances and opportunities for festival-goers to get hands-on with community art projects is slated to take place this weekend.
“The idea for the festival came from getting the public involved in local artists’ creative processes,” says Christine Higgins, festival organizer and founding member of IACA. “The island has been known as a family beach and charming beach town, but it is also home to many artists. We want to give residents and visitors a greater understanding and appreciation for the many forms of art.”
In addition to visual artists, the festival will feature a culinary arts tent. Here, cooking demonstrations and educational programs will be led by local chefs, restaurants and shops. Local favorites include Uncle Vinny’s Pizzeria, which will show bystanders the proper way to throw a pizza pie. Sweet Morning Farm will teach others how to make artisan bread in five minutes.
“We want the festival to be different from the many festivals we have in the region and to highlight the arts in its many different forms,” Higgins explains.
The festival also will feature a robust schedule of performances, including up-and-coming blues singer Chaquis Maliq, Beaches and Boots line dancers, Cape Fear Dance Studio, and more.
The flagship event and fundraiser for IACA, the nonprofit, community-based organization’s mission is to enhance quality of life on Pleasure Island. They aim to raise awareness, understanding and appreciation of the literary, visual and performing arts.
“We want to make the island a destination for people to come meet our artists—the sculptors, musicians, painters, chefs, writers and silversmiths—and enjoy their works,” Higgins notes. “Along with many returning artists this year, we have some amazing new artists joining us.”
Art vendors will showcase fine art and crafts, including large whirligig sculptures and pottery by Denise Bramley, who will be throwing pots on her wheel, too. Young emerging artist Maxwell Reinbachs, a student at Eugene Ashley High School, will be on hand, as will Lynette Ashby and Ann Krier. The locally known mixed-media artists will lead a community-made art project. Participants will use paper, magazine cutouts, found objects, and their own drawings and paintings to create a collage representative of each letter of the alphabet.
“Lynette Ashby and Ann Krier have such a gift,” Higgins shares. “They are able to show people how bits of paper and found objects can transform into beautiful works of art.”
Krier is self-taught, and began pursuing collage art after penning two crafting books and having many of her designs published in magazines. “I think the festival is a great showcase for artists to share the ‘how-tos’ of what we do,” Krier adds. “It also creates a situation where the artist can interact with the community, and receive feedback and new ideas.”
Her works often are described as whimsical and colorful. She looks forward to demonstrating the developmental fortitude it takes to see through every step of her art’s creation.
“I love the process and the experimentation that takes place during a work,” Krier explains. “Many times, people will not truly understand the value of a piece as it relates to the artist’s time and materials. Take paper collage, for example. When they see the prep work, under painting, the cutting, the tearing and planning that takes place, then they will see how much energy goes into every finished piece.”
Ashby, too, acknowledges the importance of the festival to the Carolina Beach community. After pursuing acting and jewelry design for 20 years, she decided to challenge herself to work in two dimensions. Her collages are inspired by the beauty of surrounding coastal life.
“The island is a constant source for ideas, and not just the ocean,” she explains. “I see deer, raccoons, turtles, and foxes in my yard. The festival gives people a chance to be creative and hopefully discover, like I did, that art is a wonderful way to spend your time and to record your history.”
Part of that history will be the completed community-made collage, which will be auctioned off in October by IACA. Proceeds from the sale of the piece and from the festival will support practicing artists and local art organizations. It also will encourage economic development through the arts in Pleasure Island and the surrounding communities.
“The festival is an opportunity for a lot of us who are members of the island’s creative class to market our items,” Ashby says. “Each item is unique and made with love, and every purchase will support the local arts community.”
Carolina Beach Street Arts Festival
May 16, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Along Cape Fear Boulevard