Arts Alive! Takes Over Old Town
One of the liveliest festivals on the coast, Arts Alive! embraces all types of art - including visual, literature, culinary arts, theatre and music - with lots of fun competitions!
- story by Ana Balka, photos by Ellis Anderson
Dozens of artists will display their work — sculpture, paintings, mixed media, pottery, jewelry, metal, ceramics, photography, glass, leather, woodwork, and more — at host businesses around Old Town for the Artist Showcase. Also, artists will be demonstrating techniques throughout Old Town all day. Noted area potter Steve Barney will be on hand with Agile Argile, his interactive, steampunk-inspired clay wheel contraption, and at least a dozen other painters, potters, and jewelry makers will be on the streets showing techniques to onlookers.
The Literary Showcase is a popular event, with an Aspiring Writers’ Contest for kids in three age categories, and an on-the-spot Flash Fiction contest for adults. Events take place between Bay Books, 131 Main, and Bay Life gifts and Biz-zee Bee at 111 Main. Kids’ work is submitted beforehand, with rules and topics specified in the application on the website.
Entrants in the Flash Fiction contest receive the topic onsite at 9:30 and commence writing until the 12:30 p.m. deadline to submit up to 400 words. From 1-3 p.m. participants read their entries aloud to the audience and to judge Rheta Grimsley Johnson, award-winning reporter and columnist. Winners will be announced following the readings, and cash prizes will go to the top three. Also, Phil Levin of Gulf Coast Writers’ Group will give a talk on writing, publishing, and marketing.
The Literary Showcase is a natural for ArtsAlive!, according to Janet Densmore, Arts Hancock County member and Literary Showcase organizer. “The South is the birthplace of so much great writing,” she says, adding that she loves that there are creative competitions for young people as well as adults. “If you start when kids are young, they’re going to be who they are. Pour water on [their creativity] and they grow.”
Lulu’s on Main, 126 Main Street, hosts this year’s Culinary Showcase with 2016’s theme calling for “Sweets of the South.” Ten contestants will vie to create the most tempting dessert, and three celebrity judges will choose the top three entries. “One of the big attractions to this event is that the public gets to sample a taste of all the submissions after the judging,” says Arts board member Joan Coleman.
The festival brings “community involvement, art appreciation, and introduction to various forms of art” to the community each year, Joan says. “It’s good seeing people enjoy Bay St. Louis. We have a lot of people come from out of town just for the one-day event.”
Popular Gulf Coast blues/soul singer-songwriter Rochelle Harper and her husband and collaborator Boz Boswell host the Songwriters’ Showcase at the Mockingbird cafe. Songwriters perform noon-5, with judging by members of the Mississippi Songwriters Alliance. “Playoffs” of the day’s top contenders begins at 5:30, after which judges announce the winners. Songwriters’ Showcase is always a central focus of the festival, with visitors from all over cheering on performers in the outdoor stage area and enjoying refreshments from the Mockingbird. Harper and Boswell bring fun, passion, and the embodiment of Bay St. Louis community to the stage: “We love Bay St. Louis,” says Harper. “It’s like a city full of extended family. We want to be a part of anything going on in the Bay.”
Another visually exciting event is the Theatre Tableau in front of the courthouse at 170 Main Street. Members of the Bay St. Louis Little Theatre bring a painting to life, with this year’s tableau based on a work by Micky Arnold. Past tableaux have depicted a mural by Bonnie Vallery, and in 2014 actors portrayed the characters in Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.”
Children and the young at heart love Imagination Station, an interactive play booth outside Bay Emporium at 112 South Second Street and headed up by aforementioned artist Micky Arnold. Projects for the kids include chalk drawings on tarpaper, which will be hung up for display for the day. Artists get prizes and ribbons!
Be sure to make your way to the juried show featuring the work of members of the Arts, Hancock County, and the Pass Christian Art Association at 200 North Beach restaurant. Award-winning Ocean Springs mixed media artist Mary Hardy judges the 2016 Juried Exhibition. Works are on display March 18-30 at 200 North Beach, with judging results announced at the ArtsAlive Patron’s Party Friday, March 18, and winners receiving cash prizes.
In fact, the Patrons’ Party and Juried Exhibition kicks off the whole festival. For a suggested $5 donation (free for participating artists, sponsors, and members of the Arts), attendees can mingle, view the juried show, and enjoy a fun first night.
Arts Hancock County board member, Imagination Station organizer, and tableau painter Micky Arnold talks about the inspiration and drive to create that Arts Hancock County hopes to ignite in festival-goers with this yearly event: “For people to see the process of the artist, for art to come alive is such an awesome thing. Imagination Station tries to do that for the kids (and adult kids!) by getting them to participate and try out new creative things.” She adds, “I also want to mix the sciences with arts in the future; it is so important to show how the two intersect and combine.”
All entry forms, maps, event schedules, and additional information is on the Arts, Hancock County’s website at artsalivegulfcoast.com.