Cool Wilmington—the organization that sponsors Rims on the River, the Downtown Wilmington Wine and Beer Walk, as well the St. Patrick’s Day Festival—is a concert and event production company founded in 2009. With a mission to expose people to the beauty and bounty of downtown Wilmington’s offerings, by putting a local focus on business and community, the Cool team—Chris Andrews, David Grace, James Christopher and Ellie Craig—create celebrations to draw large crowds downtown. Simultaneously, they showcase the great sector of people living and visiting here, whether with organizations that build hot-rod and antique cars, or artists and musicians.
Former downtown business owner Chris Andrews took over ARTblast from its previous incarnation, the Art and Antique Walk. In the past the 11-year event happened over five days across downtown Wilmington, and showcased local artists, galleries and antique dealers. Each would display a large amount of items for sale along six blocks of Front Street. Realizing he wanted to focus much more intensely on the arts, Andrews eliminated the antique portion of the event in 2007 due to the difficulty that antique dealers experienced in transporting their wares. In recent years he focused more specifically on art to highlight the thriving scene in Wilmington, NC.
“After much research, I decided to take small step backward and scale back the five-day event to focus just on the ArtWalk to allow me to make a change for next year’s (2014) event, which I will be moving from September to October,” Andrews says.
In 2010, Andrews upped the ante on ARTblast by incorporating theatre and comedy, dance and music, and more, at locations like Cape Fear Playhouse, Nutt Street Comedy Room, New Hanover County Public Library, Soapbox Laundro-Lounge, among others Despite the smaller scale of the 2013 happening, he remains optimistic. “As much as this might be a setback this year, it’s really a step forward for the future,” he says.
After speaking with local theater groups, Andrews learned their seasons offer more during the month of October. Thus he is working toward expansion for 2014 and moving ARTblast to the 10th month of the year.
“Three years ago I decided to expand the event to include other mediums—and it went over well,” Andrews states. To add arts of all forms will build on the arts celebration even more. “The entire event [will be] a little more edgy,” Andrews concludes.
He also will return ARTblast to a five-day, more comprehensive celebration. Yet, the 2013 event will not lack in entertainment by any means. The main event of ARTblast, the ArtWalk, will take place on Saturday, September 7th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will stretch from north and south Front Street, between Orange and Grace. The six blocks will be closed to traffic and lined with artists selling their works. Each will highlight the uniqueness of our town’s vibrant art scene and feature a variety of mediums.
“Over the years, I’ve developed a database of artists that we reach out to, and advertise through the CoolWilmington newsletter,” Andrews states. “Word-of-mouth goes a long way, as well through the artist community.”
Andrews says the six-block walk will have a lot of quality works on display and for sale, including watercolors and prints by Ronald Williams, folk art from Candy Pegram, jewelry by Emily Parker and Busarin Jungers, wood sculptures by Moputo Purrier, photography by George Rabito and Mike Byrand, Pottery by Brian Peterson, pottery by Saggy Jug and more.
More information about ARTblast and the ArtWalk may be found at www.coolwilmington.com. Artists are welcome to apply to vend by downloading an application form on their website. In the event of rain, ARTblast will move to September 8th.
September 7th, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Six blocks of Front Street, from Grace to Orange