If you’ve lived in Augusta any length of time, you’re probably aware of the Arts in the Heart of Augusta Festival that takes place every fall.
In its 37th year, the festival will be downtown next week, from Sept. 15-17, and if you’ve never been, you don’t realize what you’re missing out on.
One of the most popular aspects of the festival is the international cuisine booths — more than 20 nations are represented, with new booths including Korea, Sudan, Vietnam and Cambodia. Five stages will be packed with nonstop performances all weekend, and more than 130 juried fine arts and crafts booths will be available to peruse.
New to the festival this year are the ExploreGeorgia.org Songwriter Series show on Sunday featuring Otis Redding III (yes, Otis Redding’s son), Greg Hester, Keith Jenkins and Lola Gulley. Friday night features a new, Latin-fusion party with DJ Andrew Serrano. Also new to the festival is Authors Alley in the JB White Building, which puts the spotlight on area writers.
Read on to find out more about what will be available at this year’s festival, to be located at Broad Street and the Augusta Common at 836 Reynolds St.
As always, Arts in the Heart features artists from near and far. The festival will feature at least 150 artists, with 53 from Georgia and 25 from the CSRA.
One local artist — a first-timer to the festival — is Grovetown resident and Indonesia native Nico Gozal, of Nico G Silk Art (view his work at nicogsilkart.wordpress.com). He does hand-painted silk pieces using fabric dyes, but it’s not wearable art — his pieces are showcased behind glass in shadowboxes. He said he got into the art form under a professor, who he ended up working for before feeling comfortable branching out on his own.
He said he draws inspiration from music and language.
“I’m really interested in music from whichever country, even though I don’t understand what they say — just the music itself and the language fascinates me,” Gozal said, “and that kind of inspires me with my artwork also because I originally came from Indonesia, so a lot of the Indonesian textile design or sculpture or traditional dances influence me.”
Gozal moved from Indonesia to go to school in Tampa, Florida, in 1990 at the International Academy of Merchandising and Design. After living there for about a decade, he moved to Chicago in 2002 to be with his partner. They then moved to the Augusta area after his partner got a job at Fort Gordon in 2012.
Gozal is excited to be a part of Arts in the Heart, gaining respect for the festival as a visitor for the past few years. He said his booth will feature “a various selection of silk painting, a lot of whimsical, nature, nautical-related painting.” He said he hopes when people see his art, it will bring them a sense of joy.
Cindy Pearce will be displaying her wire-woven stone jewelry at the festival for the first time. As a longtime Aiken resident, she has attended and loves Arts in the Heart. Her jewelry consists of polished stones wrapped in woven copper wire. The time she spends on a piece can range from one hour to two days.
“Just like in basket weaving, you’re weaving several wires together, usually between two and six to eight wires,” Pearce said. “And you’re actually creating a weaving pattern, so some of my pieces actually have six different patterns. … I look at the stone, and it almost kind of tells me what it wants me to do.”
She started out as a graphic designer and did it for about 30 years, after getting a degree from the University of South Carolina.
“Thirty-something years ago, we didn’t have computers to do artwork,” she said. “We used to do it all by hand, and I missed it. So that’s why I got into jewelry. I just enjoy doing things by hand.”
Some longstanding favorites from the CSRA will be at the festival, including the Grunge Goddess (Juliet King), who does live demonstrations on the pottery wheel throughout the festival. Local artist Sergio Ruano’s Spoke-n-For jewelry is created from bicycle spokes, and he custom creates it for people on site. Jennifer Ellison, creator of by Jen Ell clothing line, has a new line of clothing this year. And Kendra Runnels, owner of Kendra’s Studios Inc. and an Arts in the Heart award winner from 2016, will be back with her paintings. Nora Cooks is rejoining the festival after some years away, with her handmade dolls. And Chris Goodman, a highly skilled woodworker specializing in musical instruments, will be there.
The festival draws artists from beyond the CSRA, as well. Hallie Bertling of Greenville, South Carolina, pours her talents into illustrative paintings depicting the feet of fairy tale characters — she calls her collection Faerie Tale Feet.
“It’s all inspired by favorite books, plays and fairy tales,” she said. “And I take the original telling — whether it’s hundreds of years old or a more recent book — and I hide details from the original story in the background pattern, and then I paint the characters’ feet and their shoes to kind of give you an idea of the character, based on their posture or their action to let people step into the story for themselves.”
Bertling, who studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design, has been to Augusta before, but it will be her first time experiencing the Arts in the Heart festival. She draws her inspiration from traveling and from reading plenty of books (she read 13 just last month). Visit facebook.com/halthegal or find her shop on Etsy by searching Halthegal.
Artists and married couple Amy and Mark Thompson will be coming down from Englewood, Ohio. The two work together to create unique, cut stained-glass pieces that are set in wood and meant to be hung up as wall art — not in front of a window. Amy designs, cuts and lays all of the stained glass, and Mark does the woodworking aspect of it.
Amy said if someone had told her six or seven years ago she’d be doing the art for a living, she would have thought they were crazy.
“I trained as an executive chef; I have no formal training in the arts, although I’ve dabbled in just about every medium since childhood, so I’ve always been very creative, but I never thought that I could do this for a living,” Amy Thompson said. “And I lost my job, and my husband said, ‘While you’ve got some free time, why don’t you try stained glass?’ I hadn’t tried stained glass, and I knew nothing about it. And I thought ‘You know what, I’ll do that.’ So I went out and I just bought some supplies — never read a book, never saw a video, and I get home and I just started learning. And honestly just doing it, so everything I’ve learned up to this point has truly been self taught. A lot of trial and error in there, the first things we made were hideous. … My strength as a sketch artist really helps me in what I do. And Mark had worked in wood already, he had made furniture and other things through the years, so he had a depth of knowledge in woodworking.”
Amy’s pieces are heavily inspired by nature. Though the Thompsons have been to Georgia before, this will be their first time visiting Augusta. They’ll be offering new pieces, original wine racks, a decorative wall shelf and larger-scale pieces that they don’t carry a lot of. See their work at glassandwoodworks.com.
Robin Rodgers, who lives in Tallahassee, Florida, will bring his nature-themed pottery to Arts in the Heart for the first time. Growing up near the Apalachicola River in Florida, he would find pieces of American Indian pottery there, which influenced him to become interested in the art form and archaeology. He’s been doing pottery himself since he took a pottery class in 1981, and has a Master’s degree in ceramics and now teaches.
“My work is wheel-thrown, which means it’s turned on a potter’s wheel from a lump of clay. I decorate the pottery by carving into it or etching patterns into it, and sometimes I sculpt freehand various kinds of little animals, like frogs, birds and turtles,” Rodgers said. “It’s kind of nature-related art. And it’s more decorative pottery than cups and bowls and mugs and things like that.”
He said his work is “raku-fired,” which is “an ancient Japanese technique of firing that involves pulling the pottery out of the kiln while the glass (glaze) is still hot, and that makes the crackled patterns form in the glass.” Find him on Facebook by searching Robin Rodgers Pottery.
The ExploreGeorgia.org Songwriter Series is taking place in six cities across the state from August to November. Its stop in Augusta is part of Arts in the Heart, on the Community Stage starting at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17 (admission is included with Arts in the Heart badge). Performers include Keith Jenkins and Greg Hester, Lola Gulley and Otis Redding III.
Keith Jenkins is an Augusta native who joined James Brown’s band, The Soul Generals, as a guitarist when he was barely 18 years old. He spent 12 years touring with the Godfather of Soul until Brown passed away in 2006. Jenkins, who serves as music director at the James Brown Academy of Musik Pupils in Augusta, collaborated with another soulful Georgia singer, Greg Hester, to release the tribute album “Soul Brother, Where Art Thou?” in 2015. Hester has released solo albums that reflect his love of soul, funk and country-rock and showcases his powerful voice in Street Choir, a tribute to the great Northern Irish musician Van Morrison.
Every week at Northside Tavern, the legendary Atlanta blues club, Lola Gulley leads the Monday Night Jam. A dynamic singer, Gulley has been compared to Candi Staton and Mavis Staples and earned “Best Vocal Performance — Female” honors by the Blues Critics’ poll in 2014. Two of her albums, “Give Her What She Wants” and “Cleanin’ House,” were produced by soul legend William Bell and released on his Wilbe Records label.
It’s a heavy burden to carry the name of one of the world’s most beloved artists, but Otis Redding III has carved his own path in music over the past three decades. He had several charting hits in the ’80s with R&B, soul and disco group The Reddings, which included his brother, Dexter, and singer Mark Lockett. Since then, Otis III, a singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, has recorded and toured extensively in America and Europe and continues to write and release bluesy, soulful music while honoring and paying tribute to his father, Otis Redding, by always performing some of his songs in his sets.
Other artists to appear on the Community Stage include Augusta hip-hop/pop artist and DJ Moses; Augusta-based female-fronted alternative rock group BullMoose; Augusta-based heavy rock band A Future Now Past; North Augusta-based alternative/indie guitar pop group Hound of Goshen; North Augusta-based power pop duo Brighter Light; Augusta-based Vicky Grady Band; and Augusta-based hip-hop artist Selah Jetlound Guru.
The Global Stage will feature Augusta-based punk-pop fusion band False Flag; King Cat and the Elders, who resurrect the roots of rock ’n’ roll and update the arrangements; Aiken-based piano, bass and drum trio Stink Bamboo; dance group Dance 2 Inspire; and girl-rock band SnapDragon, whose singer is based in Augusta.
The Jazz Stage will showcase Atlanta-based Gospel recording artist Funmilayo Ngozi; Augusta-based solo pop/jazz/rock artist Chris Hardy World; Augusta-based alternative country/bluesy rock artists the Adam Harris Thompson Band; and Augusta-based Christian performing artist Tony Aaron Hambrick.
The Troubadour Stage will feature Atlanta-based acoustic duo Linnie & Amy Joy; Macon-based folk/pop/rock singer and songwriter Louise Warren; Nashville, Tennessee,-based songwriter/visual artist Wild Enemy; Atlanta-based neo soul funk singer Nubia Soul Goddess; and Georgia-based spoken word artist Sa Jules.
On the Family Stage will be Zazzua Productions’ “World Fusion,” full of dancing and theatrics; Augusta-based competitive dance team Dance Xtreme; CSRA-based magician Ben the Illusionist; and Victory Productions’ “A Woman’s Worth,” a story of three sisters on different walks of life as they endure the trials and tribulations of their individual romantic relationships.
See next week’s Metro Spirit for more information about the performances.
Last, but definitely not least, is the food, one of the most enduringly popular aspects of Arts in the Heart.
Back for its fourth year is the African-American booth, which benefits Concerned Women Inc. The nonprofit organization based in Grovetown has been around for almost 15 years and helps the community in various ways, including providing food and clothing to people who need it.
The nonprofit group’s executive director, Bea Sanders, said they enjoy working with the festival.
“It was eye-opening for us, a very good fundraiser, and we got to meet a lot of people. It’s just exciting,” Sanders said. “Everybody’s just nice, from the Arts in the Heart community on down; everything’s just been nice.”
The booth will feature different items on the menu each day of the festival, including hot wings, fish, ribs, barbecue pig’s feet, collard greens, chicken, corn bread, macaroni and cheese and more. Desserts include red velvet cake, sweet potato pie and pound cake.
The much-loved India booth also will be back this year. The booth, called the Indian Pavilion, is put on by the Hindu Temple Society of Augusta. One of the booth’s organizers, Sheila Kamath, said they have been part of the festival since 1995.
“When we’re trying to represent India, we take foods from different parts of India … we want people to get a nice variety,” Kamath said. “People have been coming to us for years, and they know exactly what to order. Our tent is split into two sides, the northern side and the southern side, because the food is very different. On the southern side, we have the Indian crepes called the dosa, which is a very famous south Indian dish. It is like a very thin pancake with potato filling, and it comes with a very spicy sauce like a soup and coconut chutney. That is the big item on that side. On the north Indian side, we have the sampler platter (which comes with Indian bread, rice, mixed vegetable curry, chickpeas in curry, vegetable fritters and dessert).”
The booth serves no meat, as it is aiming to promote vegetarianism. Some items may be made vegan upon request.
The Hindu Temple Society of Augusta does what it can to help the community, such as supporting the soup kitchen and other outreach efforts like making hats and scarves for students. The booth also will have several henna artists for people to get henna art done on their skin.
Other nations represented include Germany, serving items like schnitzel, bratwursts, potato salad and sauerkraut; China, serving items like ham fried rice, eggrolls and vegetable lo mein; Jamaica, serving items like curry chicken, jerk chicken, jerk pork, ox tail and curry goat; Turkey, serving items like gyro wraps, chicken wraps and baklava; and Trinidad, serving items like geera pork (cooked with spicy cumin and garlic), curry chicken dinner and curry goat dinner. Many other food booths will be at the festival.
The Arts in the Heart of Augusta Festival will take place from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16; and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17. Badges cost $7 in advance or $12 at the gate, and kids 10 and younger get in free. Advance badges may be purchased online or at State Bank and Trust, Vintage Ooollee in Downtown Augusta and New Moon in Aiken. Arts in the Heart sees more than 88,000 visitors every year. For information, call 706-826-4702, visit artsintheheartofaugusta.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. See next week’s Metro Spirit for a full guide to the festival.