Virginia Street Arts Festival

Interview by Adele Uphaus-Conner
Issue 68 • October 2018 • Waynesboro

By combining forces with the more established players in town, this double-whammy arts festival is having a transformative effect on the local arts community.

Artists young and old, urban and traditional, professional and amateur will be able to mind-meld this month in the mountain town of Waynesboro, where the fourth annual Virginia Street Arts Festival and the 46th annual Fall Foliage Art Show are being held in conjunction October 13 and 14.

“This is bridge-building between different art communities,” said Meghan Williamson, organizer of the Street Art Festival, which each year has brought professional graffiti artists to the town to create large-scale murals on public buildings.

In each of its four years, the Street Art Festival has been held at a different location around Waynesboro—the first several years at EN Computers, the festival’s founder and original sponsor, and then last year at Basic City Beer Co., a craft brewery with a location in Richmond as well as Waynesboro.

This year, the Street Art Festival is intentionally being held on Main Street in the same location and at the same time as the annual Fall Foliage Art Show, which brings 160 professional artists—hand selected by the staff of the Shenandoah Valley Arts Center—to town for a showcase and juried art show. Participating artists in the Fall Foliage show are painters, printmakers, woodworkers, potters, glass-blowers, jewelry-makers and sculptors. “Hopefully, [holding the festivals together] will bring together a diversity of art perspectives and practices in one place,” Williamson said.

Piper Groves, who has organized the Fall Foliage Art Show for the past ten years, said she is a graffiti fan and was energized when she visited the Street Arts Festival last year. “These are people I’ve never seen in the gallery,” she said. “I was blown away by all the different kinds of people there. There was a younger energy and people we don’t always see at events downtown.”

Nils Westergard

The Street Arts Festival has announced two featured artists—Nils Westergard and Julia Chon. They will be completing murals during the festival, live and visible to the public.

Westergard is an internationally-known artist, who, at the time of the interview, Williamson said was probably “in LA right now hanging from a bucket and painting a mural.” He is known for striking black-and-white portraits—images that he projects onto the blank canvas of a wall or building and then paints. His works can be seen in Richmond, where he lives, as well as London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Prague, Miami, and Los Angeles, among others. “It’s quite a coup to get an artist of that caliber to Waynesboro,” Groves said. “He’d be just as comfortable in New York.”

Julia Chon / Kimchi Juice

Julia Chon, a native of Vienna, is 18 and has been storming the art world since she was 16. She’s known for her alter-ego, Kimchi Juice, and her series of cute animals flipping the bird, many of which she presented to the local chefs she admires. She’s also created murals for the Metropolitan Branch Trail in D.C. and the Worcester Arts Magnet School in Worcester, Massachusetts.

These two muralists will be painting walls at a building owned by The Wayne Theater. The murals will be on different sides of the building so that they will be visible from multiple perspectives across the city. “We are excited to host an internationally-renowned artist on The Wayne Theatre campus that allows us to expand our mission into the community in a diverse and inclusive manner,” wrote theater executive director Tracy Straight in an email.

There will also be a public painting project hosted by the Waynesboro Children’s Museum and “buckets of chalk” available to anyone young or old who wants to make a mark on the city. Groves said Waynesboro is a beautiful town nestled among scenery that simply “drives people to create things—visual or otherwise.” She added, “As we grow, the art scene grows.”

With its easy access to the mountainous outdoors via the Appalachian Trail and Skyline Drive, and plethora of Civil War history―it hosted a battle, the last for Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal Early―Waynesboro might seem an unlikely place for an urban art festival.

But Williamson said that the town’s large-scale industrial buildings, which have been abandoned as manufacturing businesses moved elsewhere, offer tempting canvases to artists. “As manufacturers have left, the art scene has taken over,” she said.

The organizers of both festivals see an opportunity for all the participating artists and art-fans to learn from each other. “Creating art is always an exercise in seeing: learning how to see and learning how to convey the emotions of what one sees,” Groves said. “Both traditional and street artists are trying to convey what they see—the difference is often simply materials and presentation.”

“Projects like this attempt to bridge the gap of perception and create conversations about the intention of art,” she continued. “Open discourse about the process of creativity can only strengthen our culture and human connections.”

Both the Virginia Street Arts Festival and the Fall Foliage Art Show will be held on Main Street in Waynesboro on Oct. 13 from 10 AM – 5 PM and Oct. 14 from 12–5 PM. Learn more at facebook.com/vasafestival.

Photos courtesy of Virginia Street Arts Festival

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