Artists from France, Germany, Israel, Canada, and across the U.S. will convene streetside, beachside, among our historic downtown, and in venues like Cameron Art Museum, Bellamy Mansion and Jengo’s Playhouse from August 21st through the 24th. The SARUS Festival for site-specific and experimental art will get underway, featuring upward of 30-plus performers across a spectrum of arts. Visual, sound, choreography, theatre, dance, performance, interactive, sculpture, concept, film, installation … it all will be represented.


SERIOUS ABOUT SARUS: Since 2007 the SARUS Festival has been wowing attendees with diverse artistry. Photo, courtesy of Karola Luttringhaus.

“I am a person of action,” Karola Luttringhaus, founder of Alban Elved Dance Company and director of SARUS, tells. “If I want something to happen, I make it happen. I figure out what it takes and go for it.”

That’s precisely how she introduced SARUS to southeastern NC in 2007. Across New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties, folks were exposed to experimental works at Wrightsville and Carolina beaches, downtown Wilmington, Burgaw, UNCW campus, Red Barn Studio Theatre, and Cameron Art Museum. 

“[We] present non-commercial, intellectually stimulating, multi-disciplinary and affordable programming that is uniquely created to reflect on natural and urban spaces of the greater Wilmington area, and to enrich and nurture our cultural landscape through exchange among community members, professional local and guest artists,” Luttringhaus clarifies.

In essence, the group utilizes spacial parameters and the stories they “speak” to inspire movements, installations, films, or whatever facet of art is used to reflect a performer’s interpretation of place. Artists traveled to Wilmington July 16th through 23rd for a weeklong residency hosted at Jengo’s Playhouse, the headquarters of Cucalorus Film Festival. Its director, Dan Brawley, helps SARUS house many artists during their trek in August to scout locations.

“SARUS offers a unique and important counterpoint to other art offerings in the area,” Luttringhaus says, “and prides itself to create a niche for artists that wish to work in the realms of avant-garde and outside of the traditional theatre space.”

Luttringhaus designed SARUS based on the success of Charleston, SC’s, Spoleto, an arts festival founded in 1977 by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti. Its idea is to drive participants and artists to break conventions of what it means to create art and challenge its outcome and impact. All participants in 2014’s SARUS use uncommon methodologies; this year’s theme is “creativity. exploration. risk.”

“All of the arts have a power to comfort, inspire, and restore a sense of hope,” Lutrringhaus explains. “Music, literature, poetry, and paintings, just to name a few, distinctly capture our experiences and emotions. [SARUS] is characterized by a hybrid of disparate styles, or unorthodox, new, distinctly unique ingredients.” 

For example, Luttringhaus will be deconstructing Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the backyard of Jengo’s Playhouse (Friday, August 22nd). Her contemporary and modern dance background (BFA in dance/choreography from UNC and a SAMA/MFA from the Technische Universitaet Berlin in scene design/costume design and exhibition design) is utilized by providing an inspiring social critique. Her rendition will shift the focus of “Midsummer Night’s” numerous love entanglements and ethereal fairies. “[I will] dissect the play and argue for its richly multi-faceted deeper meanings as insinuated by Shakespeare,” Luttringhaus details. She has devised eight short stories out of the overall work, each exploring ideologies of marriage, the purpose of theatre, and gender struggles for autonomy and authority in a patriarchal society. The result will feature 11 performers, including Wilmington’s very own opea singer Bob Workmon from WHQR, as well as Mirla Criste from UNCW’s theatre faculty, to result in a “visceral, full-bodied  physicality and spoken expression,” according to the director. Following the show will be a Q&A and afterparty (admission by donation: $20). 

 On Thursday, August 21st, “spiritus #1” will feature eight artists on Carolina Beach’s Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar pier and along the immediate beach strand, all performing 10 works beginning at 3:15 p.m. The pieces have been inspired by the sea, wind and sand, and mankind’s relationship to the elements. Among numerous aerial artists and live music performed by The Old Ceremony at 7 p.m., Courtney Owen Muir will showcase an “Amalgamation of Art” at 5:45 p.m. featuring live music, visual art, spoken word, and dance. Luttringhaus will act as the visual artist in Muir’s contact improvisation piece. “I love the opportunity to work with these fantastic artists,” Luttringhaus tells. “It is enriching and endlessly inspiring to me.”

On Friday evening at 6 p.m., near Market and Front, “downtown” will be performed among nine artists, all inspired by urban spaces and living among the downtown action. Another audience-interactive piece will come from Cape Fear Theatre Dance’s three performances of “In Wonderland” (6 p.m., 7 p.m., 8 p.m.). It will lead participants from the fountain at the corner of Market and Water to numerous downtown spots. The collaborative piece combines Lewis Carroll’s classic literary work with the wonder of modern-day social issues. 

Luttringhaus will partner with local visual and installation artist Janette Hopper, as well as Valerie Potvin, to contemplate a variety of subjects, like humanity, creativity, gain and conquest, destruction, sensuality, illness, and humor at Cameron Art Museum’s “natura humana—skin”on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Up to a dozen performers will utilize all spaces inside and outside of CAM, with pieces focused on analyzing the human condition. 

 On Sunday, beginning at 9 a.m., “spiritus #2” will take place at Wrightsville Beach, on the shore at beach access #4. Water makes up a quarter of the programming for SARUS, a name stemming from the literal translation “of water.” The element remains integral to the festival. 

“Water symbolizes adaptation, transformation and release,” Luttringhaus tells. “Water is life, and the conservation of it and our healthy relationship to it is of utmost importance to our planet. The beach locations are places that bear a rich multitude of inspirations for artists—a major component of the festival.”

Community involvement also is a goal of SARUS. Months ago, Alban Elved Dance Company organized several childrens’ and adult workshops, and worked with schools and community groups to design and build puppets to showcase in the festival. They will fly during the VOLO parade at Carolina Beach on Thursday, and on Sunday at Wrighstville Beach’s performances, held at access #4. The colorful choreography of “VOLO” (9 a.m., 10:35 a.m., and 12:15 p.m.) will have onlookers walking with performers as the puppet birds are flown along the oceanfront.  

Ending the festival will be “sonitus” at the Bellamy Mansion on Saturday evening at eight o’clock. Again, more than a dozen artists, including SquidCo Records’ Phil Zampino, will focus on sound art, installation and performance art, inspired by indoor and outdoor spaces at Bellamy (admission by donation $20). Artists will work off interpretation from the building’s textures and its bast history. A “purpose of the arts” discussion will take place afterward. 

“I founded SARUS to bring inspiration and opportunities for exchange with guest artists to Wilmington,” Luttringhaus divulges. “My goal is to help define the difference between entertainment and art; it is a heartfelt mission to foster true artistic intent in this community.”

With the help of numerous players, including Luttringhaus’ right hand, Mrs. Rachael Goolsby, they’ve dedicated innumerable hours to networking and continuing an event founded on artistic integrity. Though Luttringhaus is constantly writing grants and applying for state funds for SARUS, the NC Arts Council turned down the festival this year because of it’ lack of annual cash obtained over the last two years. “[It’s a] new policy they adapted a couple of years back, which appears to give money to those that already have some and also ignores the history and track record of an organization,” Luttringhaus says. “If you operate strictly on a volunteer basis, then all the many thousands of dollars that people and venues contribute in-kind simply don’t count.”

That being said, most downtown and beach events are free; however, a $5 donation is appreciated to help further the festival’s goals. Bellamy, CAM, and Jengo’s Playhouse events ask for a $20 donation.

Artists interested in applying for next year’s event can plan around its theme: “barriers. borders. territoriality.” Luttringhaus says, “There will be lots of room to pick up on what defines this community, where borders play a role, where they are helpful, or where they hinder progress and communication among people. Location and work are always symbiotic.” 


SARUS Festival site-specific and experiemental art

Full schedule/various locations:
Admission: $5-$20

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