The arts scene in Phoenix is as diverse and constantly changing as the population of the Valley. The Herberger Theater Center’s annual Festival of the Arts gives a small taste of that diversity, showcasing performance groups within the area.
In its ninth year, the festival will have outdoor and indoor stages with performances from local arts organizations, bands and artists. In the same space, festivalgoers can see mariachi, flamenco, Middle Eastern, and classical Indian dance, as well as improv comedy, children’s theater, steel drum, acoustic, and Renaissance-focused performances. Local bands and musicians will perform different styles of music, including '80s and '90s dance covers and jazz standards.
A handful of the organizations featured are resident companies at the Herberger Theater Center. Laurene Austin, director of development and marketing for the Herberger Theater Center, says since the beginning, the festival has helped to expose the public to the different artistic styles that exist locally.
“That’s always been one of our goals, to work with as many diverse organizations as possible to provide a comprehensive menu for people to come and see what the Phoenix community has to offer,” Austin says.
Austin says since the festival started, the arts scene in Phoenix has changed and evolved a great deal.
“I think lot of people would be pleasantly surprised to find out the amazing culture that is available,” Austin says.
During the festival, many local groups and arts organizations provide a sample of their repertoire or a preview of upcoming productions, and each year brings a mixture of new and returning groups taking part. Grand Canyon University’s Ethington Dance Ensemble has performed at the festival for the last seven years. According to Susannah Keita, director of dance at GCU, the event gives students a chance to network with others in the dance community, workshop their pieces and do outreach in the community.
“For me, dance is made up of so many different worlds and communities, and people have so many different reasons to dance. I want our students to immerse and be able to take dance into any of these contexts,” Keita says.
The Ethington Dance Ensemble will bring student-choreographed solos and duets featuring dancers at different levels of their education. Keita says the upperclassmen often mentor and inspire the freshmen.
“The freshmen see the seniors and the quality of work that they’re creating, and they realize they need to maintain the standard and keep building on it,” Keita says.
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People of different ages have a chance to engage with art during the festival. Throughout the day, local groups and organizations will offer interactive activities geared towards engaging young people with the arts. Children will have the chance to take part in a drum circle, make puppets, try different musical instruments, experiment with open air painting techniques, get creative with cactus or fairy-tale themed crafts and interact with Clifford the Big Red Dog inside the children’s area.
During the festival, the Herberger Art Gallery will display contemporary works from 27 local Arizona artists. The event will also have wine and craft beer tastings for adults, food booths offering options such as barbecue and street tacos, vendors selling artwork and handcrafted items and a pet adoption area.
“Because this is a family-friendly event, it has been really important for us to provide these connections with the different children’s organizations in our community,” Austin says.
Herberger Theater Center’s Festival of the Arts. 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, October 27, at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe Street; 602-252-8497; herbergertheater.org. Free admission, $10 to $15 for beer and wine tastings.