Last July Kristen Brogdon, director of UNCW’s Office of the Arts, oversaw the launch of the first annual Lumina Arts Festival. With 22 (18 ticketed and four free) events spanning over more than two weeks, 79 volunteers, 36 staff and 124 artists moved through our community, all in celebration of dance, poetry, music, visual art, theatre, and even opera. With an eye toward growing the festival much like Charleston’s Spoleto, Brogdon and the Office of the Arts staff have been diligently focused on programming and expanding in community partnerships for 2018.
“They all work so hard to make this festival look seamless,” Brogdon tells of her staff, “from the box office, to technicians backstage, to the folks making sure contracts are managed and artists are getting paid, to our incredible interns.”
2018’s festival will bring back community partners Opera Wilmington and Alchemical Theatre, both of whom anchor the festival, as well as the Black Arts Alliance, Wilmington Latin Dance, Cucalorus Festival, ceramist Aaron Wilcox, and Mouths of Babes theatre company filling events within. “The process is, in a word, collaborative,” Brogdon expresses.
We spoke with Brogdon about the 2018 Lumina Arts Festival and the goals she hopes to achieve with its growth.
encore (e): What’s new for 2018?
Kristin Brogdon (KB): After last year’s festival, we wanted to add a couple of things: a block-party feeling and more free events to create a participatory community feeling. This year, on opening weekend, July 14-15, we have Hooked On Arts outdoor fair on the Kenan Lawn. There will be art vendors, food trucks, an instrument “petting zoo”—a booth where people (especially kids) get the opportunity to play different musical instruments—a sidewalk chalk competition, and art activities. We also added a series of free theater performances at the UNCW amphitheater. Our free event with Cucalorus this year will be a Virtual Reality workshop, and we’re repeating the Latin Dance Party because it was such a hit last year.
e: Was it easier or more daunting to plan the 2018 festival, after having the first under your belt?
KB: We learned a lot from last year’s festival and it provided a great blueprint for this year. The most daunting part of planning year two is wanting to live up to the success of last year, when we outpaced our attendance goal by 1,000 people.
e: What did you guys keep in mind when programming?
KB: We look to Opera Wilmington and Alchemical to set the tone for the festival, and then we complement their programming.
It’s important for Lumina Festival to be inclusive artistically and culturally, so we make sure to have film and poetry and dance, featuring artists from a variety of cultural backgrounds. We’re also firmly rooted in supporting artists and art forms of this region.
e: Can you elaborate; is there a theme you’re following this year?
KB: The programs for the Opera Wilmington orchestra concert and our prelude concert with Barry Salwen are both inspired by “Die Fledermaus,” with the Opera orchestra including music by Johann Strauss (Jr. and Sr.), and Dr. Salwen playing a whole program of waltzes that span several time periods and geographic regions.
We also make sure there’s music other than classical to round out the offerings. This time it includes [the Americana folk of] Rhiannon Giddens and [jazz played by] Audrey Ochoa.
In terms of theatre, we worked with Mouths of Babes (MoB) to make sure the pieces they perform complement (and don’t overlap with) Alchemical’s choice of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” (see next page, 17). Most MoB performances will be original, new plays, and their classical play is Euripides’ “Iphigenia,” as opposed to Shakespeare.
e: What smaller events do you think the community will enjoy during LAF?
KB: Aaron Wilcox is a ceramist who has an incredible imagination, as well as a strongly developed craft. His show in the Cultural Arts Building Gallery will be impressive and thought-provoking.
And Audrey Ochoa—a trombonist from Canada, who will be performing as part of our summer jazz series—is young and crazy talented. She’s really starting to take off as a band leader and soloist. I can’t wait to hear her set.
e: What are your goals for 2018? What are your future plans in promoting its growth? Will it be inclusive to other venues in town as well—or is this primarily sticking to UNCW’s campus?
KB: Our goals for this year are to connect 4,500 people with regional art and artists; to inspire at least one new cross-disciplinary collaboration among Lumina artists (side note: we provide free rush tickets to all Lumina artists, in an effort to create an artistic community and encourage future collaborations); to start to grow our tourist attendance (which we measure with zip codes of ticket buyers); and to still be smiling on July 29.
I think we are starting to max out our venues on campus with this year’s schedule, so I’m open to artistic partnerships with other venues and organizations as we grow. For this year, we’re excited to light up UNCW’s campus for the second half of July!
e: Are we closer toward generating our own Spoleto in ILM?
KB: One thing that makes Spoleto incredible is the way it’s embraced by the entire community as a part of the fabric of Charleston, as well as being internationally known. Our job, side by side with continuing to program great artists, is to weave the Lumina Festival into the fabric of Wilmington and the Cape Fear region. We’re a young festival, so this will take time. At this point, we’re making all the friends we can, and inviting everyone to the party, to make participation as accessible as possible.
e: If you could make all this happen tomorrow, what would “weav[ing] the Lumina Festival into the fabric of Wilmington and the Cape Fear region” look like?
KB: Here are some of the images in my imagination: A storefront window-decorating contest, both downtown and at Wrightsville and Carolina beaches, inspired by Lumina. Mayor Bill Saffo talks about the Lumina Festival, whenever he mentions Azalea Festival. An annual poster competition where a local visual artist creates the Lumina Festival image each year. Businesses based in Wilmington cite the Lumina Festival in their recruiting materials to convince employees to live and work here. Performing artists from the region make it a priority to see each other’s Lumina projects each year, to find ways to collaborate on programming for the next summer. Lumina Festival is on the cover of encore magazine for the entire month of July every year.
e: Anything else we should know?
KB: Rhiannon Giddens [who is writing the Broadway musical about the Wilmington Riots of 1898 and is well-known for her work with the Carolina Chocolate Drops] is headlining our concert series on July 25 at Kenan Auditorium. She’s a phenomenal singer and instrumentalist from North Carolina, and she has an interest in Wilmington and its history. I hope her performance will open the door for us and future opportunities with her as an artist.