Festivals set stage for youth and the arts

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Farmville Central High School step team members perform during the Celebration of Youth Expressions Talent Show on May 20, 2017.


By Kim Grizzard
The (Greenville) Daily Reflector

Friday, April 20, 2018

The 14th Community Youth Arts Festival will bring 150 visual and performing artists to Greenville on Sunday, leaving some people to wonder how on earth they had never heard of this before.

The newly named festival is actually two celebrations in one. The event combines the ECU Youth Arts Festival with the Celebration of Youth Expressions talent show to create an opportunity for youth and the arts to take center stage.

The name isn’t the only thing that’s new. After 13 years on campus, the festival has gotten a new address and a new date, moving to the Town Common and being held on a Sunday for the first time.

“We’re still calling it the 14th annual, even though we’ve made some changes,” said Dindy Reich, an instructor in ECU’s School of Art and Design who has served as festival coordinator since it began in 2005.

“I think part of the original idea was to get kids to come on campus and families to come onto the campus,” she said. “As the festival has been growing and growing, we’re just outgrowing our space.”

The festival brings in a wide range of artists, from animators to weavers, to share their crafts with children. Festival goers can try their hands at art forms including wheel-thrown ceramics, watercolor painting, blacksmithing, papermaking, printmaking, sculpture and portraiture. They also can see local students sing, dance, play music, read poetry and do tae kwon do.

“The Youth Arts Festival in the past has been all about professional artists doing demonstrations and activities with kids,” said Holly Garriott, executive director of Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge, a partner in this year’s festival, along with the City of Greenville. “With the Youth Expressions, it’s really about the youth performing. What’s really neat is if you were to pick the Youth Arts Festival up from ECU’s mall and plop it down on Town Common and take what happens with Youth Expressions and continue it, it’s really seamless. (It) fits together really nicely.”

Students from about a dozen local schools will take the stage Sunday afternoon to share their crafts and their cultures with the community. Performers include Pactolus School’s Steel Drum Band and the Belvoir Eagles dance team, which showcases traditional dances from the Hispanic culture.

“We try to introduce the kids to different cultures,” said Lillian Outterbridge, who organized the first Celebration of Youth Expressions talent show four years ago with her husband, Freddie. “Our goal is that eventually these kids will become friends and get to know each other and learn to appreciate each other’s artwork and each other’s cultures.”

The Outterbridges, both retired educators, comb the community each year in search of undiscovered talent, both in visual and performing arts. Students ages 5 to 18 are invited to audition.

“They’ve got talent,” Outterbridge said. “We always say we want to invite Steve Harvey to do a show (here). We’ve got some talent that’s just as good as the talent that’s on ‘Little Big Shots’ (a show that Harvey hosts on NBC). We’ve got some talent that would be wonderful.”

The festival will include more seasoned performers as well, including Mappamundi, a Chapel Hill-based group that performs ethnic music from several different cultures. Also featured will be Magic of African Rhythm, an African dance and drumming troup from Durham, and Bill Staub and the ECU Brass Band.

The festival focuses more on fully engaging kids than on simply entertaining them, so the stage is not always the center of attention. Off-stage activities will include puppets, yoga and a “musical petting zoo,” where students can try out different instruments.

“Where else are you going to go and actually try weaving on a loom or try throwing a pot on a potter’s wheel?” Reich said. “Kids get to do things that they just normally wouldn’t get to do, all these possibilities in the world that kids or their parents haven’t thought about. That’s the beauty of it.”


WHAT: Community Youth Arts Festival, hosted by East Carolina University’s School of Art and Design, the City of Greenville, the Pitt County Arts Council and the Celebration of Youth Expressions 

WHERE: Greenville Town Common, 105 E. First St.

WHEN: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday (Earth Day)

WHAT: Children will have the opportunity to visit with artists demonstrating activities and creating artwork in areas such as wheel-thrown ceramics, watercolor painting, weaving, blacksmithing, papermaking, printmaking, sculpture and portraiture. Stage entertainment will feature music and dance, along with other diverse forms of art.

COST: There is no admission fee, and free parking is available. Food will be available for sale from the following vendors: Smashed Waffles, Kona Ice, Williams Catering and Tula’s Fish and Chips.