It might be considered blasphemy to be more excited about the Arts in the Heart of Augusta Festival being back next week than football season kicking off, but some people in Augusta really do feel that way. (Hey, football season lasts for like four months, so it’s not like this ruins the game.)
This year’s festival, put on each year by the Greater Augusta Arts Council, brings goodies in the form of 26 food booths in the Global Food Village, more than 160 juried booths in the Fine Arts and Crafts Market (the biggest yet), the return of Author’s Alley featuring more local writers and authors, and entertainment on five stages throughout the weekend.
It kicks off in downtown Augusta from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, and continues from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16.
CSRA artist Carey Mogianesi is excited to bring her ceramics to the festival for the first time. Working under the name Third Eye Ceramics, she said people tend to have a positive, whimsical experience when they first see the faces she creates.
“I draw a lot of my inspiration, definitely from Southern, folk artists,” Mogianesi said. “I did an internship at the Morris Museum of Art where we had a large
exhibition of such artwork, and I just dove really deep into the history of it. And so I drew a lot of my inspiration from that. And I’ve traveled a lot, so I’ve been to Greece and Italy and the Netherlands, and a lot of the sculptural figures inspired me to attach limbs to my face pots.”
Mogianesi, who has known since she was a kid that she would be an artist and got her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Augusta University, says a couple of things led to her choosing the name “Third Eye Ceramics” for her work. Partially, she says, it was because it’s easier to spell and pronounce than her name.
“The ‘third eye’ is just in regards to enlightenment. So in life, when you’re driving a car at night, it’s like how you have headlights and you can only see 300 feet in front of you,” she said. “That’s how I kind of go in perspective of my life, and the third eye is a way of knowing that there’s something greater out there, and just having a higher sense of being.”
Her functional pottery includes mugs, and everything she makes is safe to use in
the dishwasher and microwave.
Another artist who will show his work at the festival for the first time is Don Carter, who carves wood into works of art.
“I grew up in Fredericksburg, Va., about eight miles from George Washington’s boyhood home, so we were full of Civil War relics and all kinds of stuff,” Carter said. “And walking through the woods, we always had a walking stick. (I used) a screwdriver, hammer, a pocket knife or whatever to make them unique. So I kept on doing it. When I was in the Army and patrolling and all this, it was like a therapy to me. I’ve always done this since I was 14, 15 years old.”
Like Mogianesi, he’s been an artist pretty much since he can remember.
“I used to paint, draw pictures — I always had a sketchpad laying around somewhere. I’d draw on napkins, paper, paper plates, anything,” he said.
“Doodling or whatever you want to call it. If I could draw it, I could also carve it. So to me, carving was a new medium, and I would pick up lots of wood, like tree stumps or whatever, and I would take chisels or hammers and just put faces in them and all kinds of stuff when I was growing up. I would take them from the backyard and eventually they’d go back to the earth.
As a member of the military, Carter did a lot of traveling. He said he’s been all over Europe, and all sorts of people he’s met have admired his work. People had been telling him he should show his art at the Augusta festival — it’s been piling up in his backyard, and he said he has probably about 100 pieces at his home. Some of his work can be seen downtown inside the Humanitree House.
Jen Ellison is back with her clothing and accessories booth — she’s been showing and selling her “boho-rocker-chic” pieces at the Arts in the Heart festival for about nine years. She has her mom to thank for her talents.
“When I was a little, growing up, my mom made a lot of my clothes. I was an incredibly tall, skinny child. So, nothing was long enough, or it would fall off of me,” Ellison said. “And I just kind of picked it up along the way. She taught me,
and she never thought I was paying attention, but I really was.”
Her boutique-like booth is filled with pieces that often start in thrift stores. She’s even been known to use bedsheets, seeing in them a cool fabric, whereas other people would probably just see sheets.
“Right now, I’m working on a lot of stuff that has lace curtains and lace valances as accents or added to other store-found pieces. And then with jewelry, anytime I find leather than can be recycled and reused, I always jump on that,” Ellison said. “Because I like using leather, but don’t necessarily like the idea of some animal getting killed for their hide. But again, I am not one to let it sit there and rot, either.
She works to have a wide range of clothing sizes in her booth — typically, you can find sizes ranging from an extra-small to 3X, but she’s also open to custom-making things in other sizes, if she doesn’t have it available.
“My stuff is a little bit rock ’n’ roll, but then definitely the boho side. I bring in the lace and the pretty florals, but then if I come across a cute band tee, I will take it and cut it up into a cute top,” Ellison said. “So a nice little mix between hard and soft. ‘Cause I’m not girly-girl, but I’m not tomboy either. I like to look like a girl, but I don’t want to be covered in ruffles and frills, but at the same time, I don’t want to look like a boy, either.”
Visit artsintheheartofaugusta.com/fac to get a preview of other artists who will be represented in the arts market.
FOOD FROM AROUND THE WORLD
It’s too bad we don’t have limitless stomachs, because it’s super hard to decide which country’s food to eat at the festival. (Eating deliciously exotic foods all weekend might be the best excuse to use your festival pass to get in every day…)
The India food booth is back with its all-vegetarian fare (vegan options available) — you can’t go wrong with getting the Maharani Platter, featuring Indian bread, rice, lightly spiced veggie curry and chickpeas in curry, veggie fritters and dessert. And they’ll probably talk you into adding a samosa for a dollar — trust them on that, because it’s delicious.
The newest booth this year represents Yemen food and culture — try their Zurbian, made up of chicken, rice, potatoes, onion, tomatoes, vegetable oil and Yemeni spices.
Back for its fifth year is the African-American booth, which is one of the major
fundraisers for Concerned Women Inc., a nonprofit group that runs a clothing closet and food pantry for people living in poverty in the CSRA. The group’s executive director, Bea Sanders, said they’ve unfortunately seen a growth in people needing their help.
The booth keeps growing in popularity every year, with items like hot wings, pound cake, ribs, collard greens, macaroni and cheese — and barbecue pig’s feet.
The booth’s food prep is headed up by two cooks, Latovia Wright Forbush and Richard Little, who both served as cooks in the military.
Sanders described what it was like to eat pig’s feet for the first time.
“I’d never had them before — the first time I had them was at Arts in the Heart, and they were very tender, and (Latovia) seasons them and makes her own barbecue sauce,” Sanders said. “And so the first time I tried them was at Arts in the Heart. And I just tasted a little bit, but they were very, very delicious. She always had a special touch for whatever she cooks for anybody.”
The Nigeria booth has been at the festival for more than 10 years — Kenneth Erondu is a member of the Augusta Union of Nigeria Indigents, which puts on the booth. A native of Nigeria himself, Erondu has been in the United States for more than 40 years.
At the top of their menu is the Jollof Rice Platter, featuring seasoned rice, fried plantain and beef. He said the group loves to showcase Nigerian culture within the CSRA.
“Nigerians are a hospitable group of people; we are proud of our heritage,” he said. “You’ve heard of Southern hospitality — there’s something called Nigerian hospitality. … We are fun-loving, our booth kind of shows that, too.
“Anyone that has never stopped by, I encourage them to stop by and see and feel the atmosphere in the Nigerian booth. We are basically located close to the Global Village, the stage. So it’s very active, it’s very noisy.”
Other countries represented include Cambodia, China, France, Greece, Sudan and many more.
For the less bold, there’s always the Greater Augusta Arts Council’s hot dog stand. It’s perfect for kids who don’t like to stray far in their flavors.
ENTERTAINMENT THROUGH THE WEEKEND
Entertainment this year includes concerts from Livingroom Legends, Bethany and the Southside Boys, DoloJayy, voxnbass, King Cat & the Elders and more.
One especially exciting show is promised by Soweto Street Beat, a South African world dance theater based in Atlanta and in Soweto, South Africa. As the only professional South African dance and music company in the United States, the
group’s vision aims to educate children and adults about “South Africa’s rich culture and history through dance and music.”
Polly Panic features rockin’ cellist Jenette Mackie (a second cellist in the esteemed and ground-breaking cello rock band Rasputina) and drummer Caleb Beissart. Their sound is described on artsintheheartofaugusta.com as “an assaulting tenderness entangled with dark, odd metered theater.” They’ll be on the Community Stage at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Voxnbass is a local, minimalist jazz duo featuring bassist Travis Shaw and
vocalist Nefertiti. They’ll be on the Community Stage at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
Davidson Fine Arts will be showing their stuff on the Family Stage throughout the weekend. Tre Sounds is an Augusta group that brings all genres of music to the Global Stage at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
Visit artsintheheartofaugusta.com/category/performers to find out more about who you can see performing through the weekend, all with the cost of your admission badge.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
So, the Arts in the Heart Festival couldn’t survive without the work of its hundreds of volunteers — Volunteer Coordinator Jamie Jackson has been working on gathering folks to help out for the past eight years. She said the first year she did it, in 2010, the festival had 500 to 600 volunteers, but these days, the need is up to about 800.
Volunteers do all sorts of things like staff the ticket gates, hand out surveys and clean the streets throughout the weekend.
Jackson remembers when she was a student at Augusta University and convinced
one of her roommates to go volunteer with her at the festival.
“I had three roommates, and one of them was from out of town. And I said ‘Come on, Maddie, come to this thing and get involved with the community,’” Jackson said. “And so she came, and she looked at me after her first day — she volunteered for almost a full day — and she came back to my tent, and she said, ‘This is like the Epcot of Augusta, and I want to come every year.’ And she faithfully has been at that festival every year for the last eight years. … She came and realized the value of the festival to the community, and she loved it so much that she has stuck around, and she’s involved her whole family.”
Along with the weekend needing volunteers, Jackson said, the festival’s entire
steering committee is made up of about 25 to 30 people who begin working on next year’s festival as soon as this year’s ends. She said they’re looking for people who want to commit their time to putting on the festival. Greater Augusta Arts Council Project Manager Pax Bobrow said that looking ahead to 2019 and beyond, they’re looking for people who can take ownership of positions including accessibility manager (ADA compliance, etc.), bar/hospitality manager, social media interns, stage coordinator, sign and banner vice-chairs and an Arts Market and local shops liaison.
“Every time anyone thinks of a great new idea for the festival, it can only ever happen if there is a person who will be responsible for making it happen. (We’re all doing as much as we can do already),” Bobrow wrote in an email. “For example, the Author’s Alley is a relatively new part of the festival; it’s in its second year. We had tried to figure out ways to showcase local authors in the past, but only when David Hutchinson of the Book Tavern agreed to manage a whole new area in the hallway of the JB Whites Building, did Author’s Alley become a fully realized part of the festival.”
As volunteer coordinator, Jackson says she puts in 100 to 200 hours a year, for her part. The steering committee meets about six times a year.
“This is the only volunteering I do. It is a pretty lofty time commitment,” Jackson said. “And I guess the way that (someone) would get involved (in the steering committee is), I think the first step would be to volunteer at the festival. So that way, you can decide if it’s a really good fit for you.”
Jackson said anyone who wants to volunteer can still put in an application at artsintheheartofaugusta.com/participate through Monday, Sept. 10. She can’t guarantee that there will still be spots open, but volunteer shifts are typically around four hours long, and volunteers get a free T-shirt and entry to the festival.
“I think once you get in and kind of put your boots on the ground, you end up loving it. It’s literally the best time of the year,” Jackson said. “(My family starts)
a savings account in July where we put a little bit of a paycheck away — almost all of the art in my house is from Arts in the Heart. I have multiple pieces of jewelry. We love it. It’s very much like the way people feel about football and how fall football starts — we feel that way about Arts in the Heart in my house. It’s so magical.”
The Arts in the Heart of Augusta Festival will take place from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15; and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16. Badges cost $7 in advance or $12 at the gate, and kids 10 and younger get in free. 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.