ArtsFest, that day of parent-and-child activities ranging from molding clay, sculpting sand and painting pets to watching professional artists work, is back on for 2016 with a new host agency, the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department.
Tuesday, Statesboro-Bulloch Parks and Recreation announced that the festival will be held April 23 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. in its traditional place, on Georgia Southern University’s Sweetheart Circle. The county recreation department expressed interest after the university’s Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art announced in early January that it would no longer host the event, which has occurred each spring for a third of a century.
“When the art department at Georgia Southern announced that it would no longer be able to host ArtsFest, our staff recognized that a huge void was going to exist without this event,” Mike Rollins, the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department director, said in the news release.
“Thousands of local citizens participate in the event annually and its popularity has not diminished,” he said. “Our staff are dedicated to providing programs and events that the community wants, and we knew how important ArtsFest was to area families.”
The announcement named the university, along with the recreation department, as hosting the event. After discussions, the two organizations arrived at an arrangement where Parks and Recreation will cover the expenses with help from other sponsors, while Georgia Southern provides the site, equipment such as tables and chairs, and the labor to set it up and take it down, said Broni Gainous, marketing and communications coordinator for Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation.
“At this time, we agree to foot the bill although we will be searching for sponsorships,” she said in a reply email.
Last year, the university budgeted $6,650 to its Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art for the festival. It cost nearly $11,400, but with revenue from sources such as T-shirt sales and vendor fees, the department recouped about $1,700 more than the difference between the budgeted and spent amounts, said the department chair, professor Robert Farber.
However, as reported earlier, Farber said the finances were not a major factor in the art department’s decision to stop hosting the event. Instead, that call was based on the demands ArtsFest placed on the department’s resources, especially staff time, and the fact that the department’s mission has changed over the years, he said.
Georgia Southern’s art department once offered a degree in art education for potential kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers. Its focus is now on studio-oriented programs for students who want to be professional artists. But ArtsFest, called the Youth Arts Festival in earlier years, has always been geared to families with children.
Farber had said he hoped another organization would continue the festival.
"I am pleased Statesboro-Bulloch Parks and Recreation Department has agreed to assume ownership and leadership of the event," Farber said in a reply email Tuesday. "The festival is in alignment with their mission of providing quality, diverse, and wholesome experiences for Bulloch County residents.”
The university administration had agreed to the arrangement.
“We are pleased that Parks and Recreation will keep ArtsFest alive for the Statesboro-Bulloch County community,” said GSU Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications Jan Bond. “We look forward to supporting Parks and Recreation with the event.”
The recreation department’s announcement said “many community partners,” including the Averitt Center for the Arts, the Bulloch County Schools, the Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology and various departments within Georgia Southern University will help.
“ArtsFest is a large event and it requires a conglomeration of organizations to host,” Rollins said in the announcement. “We are thankful that these and other organizations have stepped forward to help make this event a success. We are confident that with their help, we’ll make the 2016 event one of the best ever.”
Parks and Recreation has a planning meeting scheduled with other departments and agencies Thursday to iron out details, Gainous said.
“We will certainly seek the assistance and knowledge of the art department and its faculty and students for this project,” she said.
Art department role
The Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art has offered to help with design expertise for festival T-shirts and printed materials and offered existing festival materials, art-stop signs and, pending university approval, the use of some equipment, Farber said. Additionally, the art department will give Parks and Recreation access to information on planning, volunteers, art stop sponsors and other details from the 2014 and 2015 festivals and will encourage art students to volunteer for ArtsFest through the recreation department, he said.
The 2014 festival drew 5,000 people, according to an estimate Gainous received from previous organizers. Attendance at the 33rd Annual ArtsFest, in 2015, was affected by a threat of rain that prompted a move to the art department’s buildings.
This year’s ArtsFest will have only a community stage for local music and other performers, Gainous said. In recent years the event has featured two stages, with one set aside for a headline act.
“We’re going to sort of save some of that cost from the headliner this year because we’re on such a tight timeframe,” she said.
The Averitt Center for the Arts has agreed to help with scheduling the performances.
“All of these agencies have just been so wonderful,” Gainous said. “They’re calling us left and right, offering to help us any way they can, and that has been a real relief, because if we had to take this over by ourselves, we know we couldn’t do it.”
Parks and Recreation asks that anyone wishing to be involved as a sponsor, art stop, vendor or volunteer calls its office at (912) 764-5637.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.