Occasion for the Arts has more in store for weekend festival

Whether visitors are enjoying An Occasion for the Arts for the first, 10th or even the 20th time, organizers guarantee one constant: There's always new art to explore.

"For me, it's an opportunity to see art that I would normally not see," said artistic director Leo Charette, who is also an artist. "To have 140 artists come from all over the country, that's just kind of a unique opportunity."

To be exact, the 47th annual Occasion for the Arts welcomes nearly 145 artists from 23 states and Canada with art in 14 categories. Of these artists, 40 percent are new to this year's show, and 10 percent will demonstrate at their booths.

Charette said a five-juror panel, completely different from last year, accepted a diverse range of art and artists. Traditional to abstract, two- to three-dimensional, photography to fiber.

"I would say that there's some pretty unique art coming," he said.

Artists' booths will line both sides of Duke of Gloucester Street and much of North Boundary Street from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Nearly 30 acts will perform at two stages. And with a youth art exhibition, a College of William and Mary show and two new ticketed events, there's another guarantee.

"There's too much really to do in one day," said Stuart Honenberger, Occasion's president.

Kick-off Party and performances

So, this year, the festival stretches across three days.

Things get started 5-10 p.m., Friday, with the CultureFix-presented "Kick-off Party" under 6,000 square feet of tent space in the parking lot behind Blue Talon Bistro.

This kick-off is a first, and it promises to entertain with performances from Dharma Initiative, Poisoned Dwarf and Rumble Seat Revival. Honenberger said this will only be Rumble Seat Revival's second performance in Williamsburg. It's also Dharma Initiative's last local show of the year.

A $15 ticket includes admission and one drink. Food and drink will be available for purchase. While sipping or snacking, patrons can exercise their own creativity on blank canvases spread throughout the event and even on a community mural.

Beyond the Courtyard Stage, the City Center Stage rests near the Stryker Center. Free performances continue on both stages throughout Saturday and Sunday. Here's a taste: Virginia Regional Ballet, Rainbow Puppets, Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums, Take 757, Flute Frenzy, Jae Sinnett and Magic of Harmony show chorus.

Youth and College Art

Sally Stiles, Occasion's marketing director, said this year's youth art exhibition at the Community Building displays 700 pieces of art from mostly local and some regional students.

"When people go and see, for instance, the youth art show," Stiles said, "I think they're always surprised at the quality, and how involved the young people get in seeing their artwork there."

If inspired, Williamsburg Contemporary Art Center's "make-a-masterpiece" youth art tent is nearby, with materials ready for molding and making.

On the Wren Lawn, for the first time, Occasion includes a College of William and Mary art show on Saturday and Sunday, featuring works from senior Studio Art majors juried by faculty. Several student artists will be present during the show, interacting with attendees.

Art of Taste

Four breweries. Five distilleries. Two meaderies. Two cideries will be present to our a variety of beverages.

From 3-6 p.m. on Sunday, Occasion wraps up with another new event at the Courtyard Stage: "The Art of Taste," presented in partnership with Blue Talon Bistro.

At 14 tasting stations, patrons can taste individual products and craft cocktails from each entity.

"So you'll see how it goes from simple ingredients to finished product," said Adam Steely, Blue Talon's general manager.

Only 250 tickets, at $25 each, are available for the event.

Planning

Organizers suggest mapping out a plan for the festival. It's simple enough with a visit to the website: aofta.org. There, you'll find complete online gallery of this year's artists, the schedule of performances and an event map.

"I wouldn't want to miss one of the artists anywhere," Stiles said. "There's such a variety of quality work."

Stiles suggested parking at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitors Center at 101 Visitor Center Drive. Round trip on a shuttle from the center costs $2. Parking decks are also located downtown on North Boundary and Francis Streets.

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

For more information or tickets to the "Kick-off Party" and "Art of Taste," visit aofta.org.

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