Saturday looks to be a picturesque day at the Town Common and not just because of the forecast.
Sunny skies with a high near 70 are expected for the Youth Arts Festival, which take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event, now in its 15th year, is making its first autumn appearance. Formerly a spring tradition at ECU, it moved to the Town Common in April of 2018 before finding its place on the fall calendar this year.
“We decided to move it because there are so many festivals in the spring,” Holly Garriott, festival coordinator, said. “The fall seemed like a great time.”
But the festival won't have to rely on changing leaves for colorful scenery. The palette will be provided by dozens of artists who will volunteer their time and talent in order to share the finer points of their crafts with the younger generation.
The event will include a variety of art forms from sculpting and drawing to metalsmithing and jewelry making. Festival goers can try their hands at art forms such as ceramics, printmaking, painting and button making.
In addition to visual displays and demonstrations, the festival will feature performing arts, including a presentation by ECU's Storybook Theatre drama group. Music education students, members of the university's marching band and representatives of the Music Academy of Eastern Carolina will give kids a chance to experiment with instruments and sound.
“The variety is really amazing,” said Garriott, a teaching assistant professor in ECU's School of Art and executive director of Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge. “For kids to have this opportunity to have so many different types of arts is so exciting. They'll learn so much, and it's not just coming and seeing; they get to actually make, too, and take home what they've made.”
Children and teens also will make up a large part of the day's entertainment. For the second year, the Youth Arts Festival is being paired with Youth Expressions talent show, which showcases local performers ages 5 to 18.
Lillian Outterbridge, who founded the talent show with her husband, Freddie, said Saturday's program will bring nearly 20 acts to the stage. From 1:30-4 p.m., returning artists George Ayino, tuba, and John Parker, saxophone, will be joined by other performers who will sing, dance, play music or perform a skit.
The Outterbridges, retired educators, started the show five years ago to shine a spotlight on youth talents that previously had been hidden.
“We know that there are kids in communities throughout Greenville and Pitt County who have talent, but you don't see their talent because they're not the kind that would get out and showcase their talent that easily,” she said. “We work with them on skills that we would like to see when they perform.”
Outterbridge recalled one young student who auditioned last year and made the cut but lacked the confidence to take the stage when it came time for the show. Volunteers worked with him on stage presence and he is set to perform in this year's show.
“It's amazing how he has grown up; we're really proud of him,” she said. “That's what we try to do for all the kids we're working with is to give them the incentive to move forward. ... These are our future leaders we're talking about.
“There are too many things in our society today that have negative effects on the young people,” she said. “That's why I got involved.”
One of her Garriott's favorite features of the festival is that it offers kids a respite from negative effects of almost constant exposure to technology.
“You get to put your hands in it; you get to physically make things,” she said. “In today's world when there is so much screen time and technology, there is something to be said for using your hands and your body and your mind to make something. ... You can't get that anywhere on a screen.”
The 15th annual Youth Arts Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Town Common, 105 E. First St. There is no admission charge. Food will be available for sale. The event will be held rain or shine. Call 329-4546.