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Youth arts festival fosters community through creativity

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Jayden Cole Davis, 2, balances with the help of Anna Dixon, left, aerial yoga instructor, during the Youth Arts Festival at Town Common on April 22, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)


By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Monday, April 23, 2018

From painting and weaving to pottery and sculpting, young artists and their parents  were able to spend Sunday afternoon creating beautiful keepsakes to take home and enjoy for many years to come. 

Bottles of paint and brushes sat beside paper plates and blank canvases on folding tables. Spools of hand-colored yarn wrapped around weaving looms. 

For 14 years, the Community Youth Arts Festival has brought smiles to faces and created a creative outlet for parents and children. This year the festival took over Greenville’s Town Common with even more at attract attendees — including a puppet parade, a talent show and multi-cultural musical performances. The new events are the result of collaborations between East Carolina University, the City of Greenville and the Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge. 

The growth of the festival continues to surprise ECU Art Instructor Dindy Reich who has been involved with the event since its inception.  

“The festival has grown so large that we have to be outside,” Reich said. “This space is more accessible for everybody and it's a way for ECU to connect the community and other constituencies in the art world.”

Last year, Reich said, the arts celebration brought more than 3,500 youth to Greenville, adding that the festival would not be possible without her art students and other volunteers.  

“I have a community arts management class at ECU and 20 students help me run this. I couldn’t do it by myself,” she said. I'm teaching them how to do event planning and arts management and they work with different artists and we have over 100 other ECU volunteers that come to help us.”

Matthew Thompson, is one Reich’s art students.  

“We’ve worked on this festival all semester, trying to get this whole thing together,” Thompson said,  “It's definitely taught us a lot of great skills. We had to reach out to a bunch of different organizations, and go around to places in Greenville.

“I went to places like Sam's Club and tried to get donations,” he said. “I made the shirts this year and I had to communicate with the guy at the T-shirt shop and learn how to do the business side of things. Learning the business side of art was really interesting for me. I normally don’t see that side of it.”

Thompson said that because of Reich’s community arts management class, he feels artists who learn the business of art gain a competitive edge when they enter the workplace.  

On Sunday afternoon, music groups from Chapel Hill and Durham provided free entertainment as people sat in their lawn chairs taking in the sunshine.  The ECU symphonic band also performed. 

After the free concerts, children from all over Pitt County took the stage. Awards and medals were given out as parents cheered on their favorite acts. 

Also on display at the festival were hundreds of pieces of artwork created by county students.  And at the Emerge gallery, winners of a recent poster contest had their work on display.

Reich said the festival continues to capture the attention of youth of all ages and that the hands-on activities available create a fun, family atmosphere. 

“We get comments like, “My kids like this better than Disneyland,’ and I think the reason is because the kids get to try so many things. Try activities and make things. We have bags from area businesses donated so kids can have something to carry their artwork in,” Reich said. 

“This festival will continue to grow in the future and become more comprehensive,” she said. “It's a great day out with your kids. There aren't any kids who don't enjoy things with their hands.”

Tyler Stocks can be contacted at tstocks@reflector.com and 252-329-9566. Follow him on Twitter @TylerstocksGDR