Artbeat 2014 kicks off Thursday night with hundreds of performers

acarlson@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 13, 2014 

Artbeat has arrived.

The arts festival — which runs from March 13-March 30 of this year — is now in its third year. But this one is different.

“I feel like we’ve attained mass overload,” said Kristen Zohn, director of collections and exhibitions at the Columbus Museum and co-chair of Artbeat’s programming committee.

Programming this year involved sorting through dozens of proposals, many of them for events organized exclusively for the festival.

After receiving all of the proposals, the committee sent out additional solicitations — to include more diverse events or more events for teens.

Zohn said that, more this year than in years before, Artbeat is on the cultural radar.

“That’s kind of what we thought from the beginning: if we have it at basically the same time every year, it would start to get in the zeitgeist of things and people would know that it was coming,” Zohn said.

There are more than 30 events on the calendar, including Color Me Rad and the Springer’s production of “James and the Giant Peach,” as well as participation from partner groups such as the Joseph House Art Gallery, the National Infantry Museum and the W.C. Bradley Co.

Five donated Steinway grand pianos will be painted and placed in public spaces around Columbus — at CB&T downtown, at Fort Benning — for anyone to play.

There are only two free days on the schedule.

“We discovered, when we sat down to look at what was going on during the two weeks of Artbeat last year, that there was a lot going on in Columbus,” Zohn said. “If you pick any two weeks of the year, you’re going to have this many events.”

Columbus State is a significant presence, too, as it has been since the festival’s inception.

CSU’s Hannah Israel oversaw the commission of two significant pieces of public art: a Broadway mural by the Atlanta graffitist HENSE and a fiber art installation on the Dillingham Street Bridge by Rachel Hayes.

This year’s theme is different (“Arts on the Chattahooche” instead of last year’s “Arts in the Street”) but the dates are basically the same.

The festival begins with an opening night on the water, featuring 200 performers, food vendors, a reception at the W.C. Bradley Co. Museum — and fireworks.

“Where else could you get this level of entertainment completely free?” said Susan Wiggins, a W.C. Bradley Co. executive who organizes each year’s opening festivities.

Opening night also sees the opening of Sally Bradley’s “Echo,” which documents the evolution of the Chattahoochee.

Zohn said that, going forward, the theme won’t change again.

Artbeat wants to remember the water.

“We’re going to start to re-associate ourselves with the river in people’s minds,” Zohn said. “Not that we’ve ever lost it, but it’s just going to get more intense,”

A LOOK AT THE CALENDAR

Kick-off: Starts at 6 p.m. at Woodruff Park, 1000 Bay Ave. Admission is free.

Toast of the Town: This March 14 fundraiser supports guest artists, young musicians and educational programs for the CSO. It also supports The Orchestra Up-Close program for children in pre-K to the third grades; free and reduced tickets to students and military personnel and other programs that make music accessible for people of all ages and economic groups. From 6-11 p.m. at the Rivermill Event Centre, 3715 First Ave. Admission is $85-$150. Call 706-323-5059 or go to www.toastcolumbus.com.

“The Secret Garden”: A tale of forgiveness and renewal, following the 11-year-old Mary Lennox after she is orphaned in India. Show time is at 7:30 p.m. at CSU’s Riverside Theatre Complex. March 19-23. Tickets are $17, $15 (seniors and active military) and $12 (children 12 and under). Call 706-507-8444.

MidTown Bike Around: A 10-mile casual bike tour on March 16 highlighting the sites of postcards currently on display in the “Greetings from Midtown” exhibit at the Columbus Museum, 1251 Wynnton Road. Cost is $15; kids under 10 are free. Starts at 2 p.m. Email annmiller@midtowncolumbusga.org or call 706-494-1663.

Marathon reading of “The Member of the Wedding”: Participants will read sections of Carson Mccullers’ classic novel in 10-15 minute shifts, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. March 22, on the Broadway and 11th Street Stage. Go to http://www.mccullerscenter.org for more info.

Plein Air Paint Out Reception: This exhibition features works from the Columbus Artists’ Guild and the Joseph House Art Gallery and begins on site Thursday on the RiverWalk. The reception is from 5-8 p.m. on March 22.

For a complete schedule, go to http://www.artbeatcolumbus.org.

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