The annual North Charleston Arts Fest is set to take place May 2-6. The celebration of arts and culture highlights the talents of national, regional, and local artists and performers in the areas of dance, music, theatre, visual arts, media arts, and literature. Performances, activities, and exhibits are scheduled to take place in a variety of venues throughout the city of North Charleston, including libraries, community centers, businesses, and parks. Many of the offerings are free and those that are ticketed are moderately priced.
Recognized by the Southeast Tourism Society as a Top 20 Event in both 2008 and 2018, the North Charleston Arts Fest is now entering its 36th year. The City of North Charleston Cultural Arts Department, which organizes and presents the event, is continuing with revisions set into motion in 2017 and also adding some exciting new programming. “From humble beginnings as a one-day community celebration at Park Circle, the festival has developed into one of our most anticipated annual City events,” says North Charleston Mayor, Keith Summey. “The Cultural Arts staff and their partners have worked hard to produce a festival that uses performing, visual, media, and literary arts to expose, engage, and inspire residents and visitors from all walks of life.”
Arts Fest offerings include concerts ranging from classical to contemporary, theatre presentations, children’s programs, film screenings, workshops and demonstrations, lectures, exhibitions, receptions, public art installations, and more.
Theatre offerings during this year’s Arts Fest vary from short play showcases to Broadway musicals. South of Broadway Theatre will once again present their annual PlayFest as part of the Arts Fest schedule. The two-night event, set for May 4 & 5, features a variety of new short plays by local playwrights. Lady in White Productions will offer a one-night-only performance of When I First Remember on Saturday, May 5. The interactive, storytelling journey portrays the passage of enslaved Africans to the Lowcountry and provides unique and authentic insight into African American culture, especially Gullah Geechee. Arts Fest patrons can also catch Midtown Productions’ take on Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound, with 9 presentations taking place between April 27 and May 12.
New to the Arts Fest event line-up this year is the Arts Fest Marsh Jam taking place at The Bend on Thursday, May 3. The free, outdoor event is headlined by Big Mean Sound Machine and also features roving performers, activities for kids, live art demonstrations, food trucks, and a local beer garden. On the following evening, Friday, May 4, is the second annual Arty Block Party, a free, family-friendly celebration that combines an art market and street dance in the Olde Village area of North Charleston on East Montague Avenue. This year’s Arty Block Party features live music by The Zandrina Dunning Experience and Swift Technique along with a variety of art-based vendors, a kid’s zone with hands-on activities and inflatables, and more. Another highlight in the 2018 schedule is the Art Fest’s first ever stand-alone hip-hop event, Live in Color, taking place at the Purple Buffalo on Saturday, May 5. Produced in partnership with Charleston Sticks Together, Live in Color features DJs, live hip-hop performances, and an adult coloring contest.
The Arts Fest Expo at the Charleston Area Convention Center is considered the festival’s flagship event, presented as the culmination of the week’s festivities on Saturday and Sunday, May 5 & 6, from 11:00am-5:00pm each day. The Arts Fest Expo features free admission and parking to a diverse array of performances on four stages, exhibitions of fine art, fine craft, photography, and youth art, live art demonstrations; hands-on children’s activities, art & craft vendors; roving entertainers, and more.
Visual art offerings unique to this year’s festival include Honduras: Nuestro Arte, Nuestra Vida, an international group exhibition featuring painters from Honduras, False Dichotomy, an immersive art installation by local artists Sage Graham and Heather Thornton, and CREST, a solo display of new work by the City of North Charleston’s current artist-in-residence Camela Guevara. Other visual art exhibitions include the 17th Annual South Carolina Palmetto Hand Juried Fine Craft Exhibition featured in Exhibit Hall A of the Charleston Area Convention Center as a component of the Arts Fest Expo, the 13th Annual National Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition installed at North Charleston Riverfront Park, and the 12th Annual African American Fiber Art Exhibition: I’m NOT Every Woman, I’m a PHENOMENAL Woman! on display at North Charleston City Hall. In addition, the North Charleston Cultural Arts Department is continuing its partnership with the College of Charleston School of the Arts Sculpture Department to present public art installations in green spaces throughout the City. These installations, as well as a number of the exhibitions presented as components of the festival, will remain on view well after the festival concludes on May 6.
Complete information on all 2018 North Charleston Arts Fest offerings, including event and exhibition details, sitemaps, and social media contest rules, are available here. Applications are currently being accepted from vendors for the Arts Fest Expo and Arty Block Party. Entry instructions for the Festival’s Judged Fine Art Exhibition, Judged Photography Exhibition, and Tri-County Youth Art Exhibition, as well as volunteer sign-up forms are also available. Click here to download forms.