While of course, we love having the streets of Asheville filled with music and our exciting ArtRow of local vendors, The Interactive Arts Arcade and our CommUnity Corner are concepts that were a part of Xpand Fest’s vision from the beginning. We have always believed that this event has the power to galvanize (or stimulate) sustainable development through the arts but was not always entirely sure how to achieve that.
Let’s talk about it for a second, I know a lot of us have been to events where the education section had people attempting to get you to sign up for some cause or to learn about their nonprofit mission but it wasn’t being well received by the festival goers. It can be very hard for nonprofits, healing art groups or unique businesses to get their message across in an engaging way at events like this- because there is an innate draw to the booths or activities that are intrinsically fun or creative. We at Xpand Fest have worked hard to change that for our event by working directly with every Interactive or CommUnity booth to challenge them to really think about how to creatively present their business so that every booth at Xpand Fest feels equally engaging and inviting. While we still have a few last minute booths settling into the event, NOT counting food and beverage vendors we are already up to 85 unique Art, Interactive or CommUnity driven activities for you and your entire family to enjoy. Now, who wants to know about some of the exciting things you’ll be able to see and do at the event just 3 short weeks away?!?
If you’re coming into the festival from the same direction you did for our Performing Arts Blog (check all the amazing music and performing arts activities in our blog from last week), you’ll walk down directly into ArtRow. On Saturday, June 9th, Coxe Avenue will be filled from Zapow Gallery all the way down to Open Hearts Art Center with creative art booths. Ranging from jewelry, fine art, pottery, clothing and some fun interactive activities including Silly Face Ink, who will do on the spot caricature drawings- there is bound to be something for everyone’s taste. Don’t forget to stop by our info booth and pick up your Xpand Fest merch too. We’re working on a very limited amount of some special new ladies tank tops and t-shirts for 2018 (with some of the most sustainable clothing companies in Asheville) that we think you’ll regret not at least checking out. Our info booth will also sell any performing artist merch they give us to help promote them and their creative merchandise! We love to truly support local and think purchasing ANY LOCAL ART to be found in ArtRow is the way to go for the perfect graduation, birthday or celebration gift! If you’re particularly interested in art with a cause, be sure to check out two of our art booths who also happen to be nonprofits, Beloved Asheville and Open Heart Art Center.
Beloved Asheville focuses on a variety of community projects including their artists collective where artists who are living in poverty or are experiencing homelessness can create art and music, heal through creativity, and sell their art to support themselves and their families in acquiring basic necessities. They will proudly be showing their work on the streets of Coxe Avenue at Xpand Fest directly beside Open Hearts Art Center’s booth (they are graciously allowing us to use their gallery for one of our Performer Lounges so will not have their store open to the public that day!). Open Hearts Art Center was developed by three women who had a passion for creating a program that combined their love for art with their desire to make a difference in the lives of differently-abled adults. Based on a holistic approach to habilitative care combined with the use of multiple forms of expression, Open Hearts Art Center has been serving adults with disabilities since June 2005. With only a small amount of day programs for adults with intellectual disabilities in the western North Carolina area and none that focused solely on the arts as a therapeutic approach, Open Hearts has been a one of a kind program for the members of our community. They are able to provide Medicaid billable services through the Division of Medical Assistance as well as state-funded services which allow Open Hearts to support their artists in retaining 50% of sales from any of the artwork created by them, with the remaining 50% supplementing art supplies and marketing fund. Truly empowering organizations supporting uniquely underserved portions of our community. Exactly the type of thing we love here at the Xpand brand!
Another booth that walks the line between art vendor and nonprofit is Art Studio World, who is one of the partners (alongside Xpand Your Vision the nonprofit founder) of Xpand Fest. Art Studio World will have a tree of life that was created by one of Xpand Fest’s very own Spero Art where all people can contribute thoughts and suggestions for a more sustainable world. They will have some additional offerings and activities for all ages and have the lovely backdrop sounds from the Instant Karma bus, aka the Vision Stage to inspire your inner artist.
Art Studio and the Instant Karma Bus denote the start of the Interactive Arts Arcade which will lead you to our CommUnity Corner and CommUnity stage. In this section of the festival, you will find a variety of nonprofits, healing arts, and organizations that will educate and stimulate your way of thinking about our community and how to build a more sustainable world. For the full list of Interactive Arts Arcade and CommUnity Corner participants, please check them out here, but we definitely want to highlight a few of the things you might find in this section. There will be opportunities to meet and interact with a variety of electric vehicles and their owners, to learn about our composting and agriculture systems in Asheville, to play Forest Defender Superhero Games with Dogwood Alliance and of course to engage in some good fringy fun from the folks at Asheville Fringe Arts Festival. A variety of local cultural community organizations, as well as healing art modalities, will also be represented including WNC Latinos, Descubre Asheville, Date My City, The Urban News, Word on the Street/LaVoz de los Jóvenes, Hood Tours, Bountiful Cities, healing touch, reiki, massage, acupuncture and more!
If that wasn’t enough for our attendees who are looking for engaging arts and interactive activities- we will have a variety of unique roving performances scattered throughout the streets June 9th. Included in this line up will be hula hooping by Full Circle Flow Arts, slacklining with Slack Librium, boffing games provided by the Wandering Swordsman, giant puppets by Street Creature Puppets, interactive toys and pop up puppet performances by Toybox Theater, as well as juggling and circus arts performed by Mountain Circus Arts.
We very much look forward to continuing to grow this aspect of our festival to include more engaging arts and education opportunities as well as highlight more cultural inclusivity. We are not afraid to discuss the hard topics that feel that doing it in a supportive open environment allows for the best dialogue and potential action possible. Come out and enjoy the day while we inspire each other and our town.