WILLIASMBURG — After the COVID-19 pandemic forced it into a virtual format last year, An Occasion for the Arts (AOFTA) is coming back in person for 2021. The annual arts festival will kick off its 53rd year on Oct. 2 and 3 in Merchants Square featuring art in a multitude of different forms.
This year the festival will put a special focus on youth artists and their experiences during the pandemic with the theme, “My Covid Experience.”
“Youth art has always been important, but in the past, we didn’t give it as much attention,” said Nancy Wigley, president of AOFTA. “Our youth gave up and missed out on a lot last year. We want to make sure we honor what they’re doing.”
Artwork from students in Williamsburg-James City County and York County schools will be on exhibit. The festival is currently accepting submissions on their youth website of documentary and animation videos from students about their experiences during the pandemic.
In addition to the youth focus the AOFTA will also feature showcases for local, regional and national artists in a variety of mediums.
Steve Prince, Director of Engagement and Distinguished Artist in Residence at the Muscarelle Museum of Art at William & Mary will have present an interactive project. He will create individual puzzles of world figures that stand eight to nine feet tall. Individuals or groups are invited to remove pieces and create something on them using mixed media materials.
“When they’re all put back together, you have a mosaic,” said Robin Markowitz, AOFTA’s Executive Director. “The mosaic is not only referencing the community that has built it, but the fact that we need each other to be complete.”
Prince’s piece will be one of several interactive exhibits featured throughout the weekend.
“We’re upping our game to make sure we’re offering an opportunity for people to take part rather than just observe,” Wigley said. “We encourage interaction. This is not a one-way event.”
To go along with the visual arts, a wide variety of musicians will play throughout the weekend, including Colonial Williamsburg’s Fifes and Drums, local favorite performer Sammy Lee and a performance by the Virginia Regional Ballet.
While the event is back to being in person this year, the event organizers are still taking every precaution necessary to keep the public safe. The festival will follow all state and local COVID protocols.
For a complete schedule of festival events as well as more information on on the artists and mediums checkout the An Occasion for the Arts website.