Arts in the Heart brings artists, businesses, and visitors together for a top 20 festival

Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019
News 12 at 5 and 6 O’Clock

Arts in the Heart brings artists from all over the world to Augusta for a top 20 festival that pumps over a million dollars into the local economy. (Source: WRDW)

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- Downtown Augusta is already feeling the energy of one of its biggest events. Artists participating in Arts in the Heart are just starting to set up their booths.

This year, event organizers anticipate this will be the biggest year yet with about 95,000 attendees.

What does it take to be an artist in this event?

In the world of art festivals, this one is pretty big. These artists are apparently some of the best of the best when it comes to festival art. Only about half the artists who apply to be in the festival actually get selected.

Artists like Rachel Bingaman prepare for months when it comes to art festivals.

“I'm painting all year for shows, because I'll move quite a few paintings during a show, and then I'll have like nothing left,” Bingaman said.

But Arts in the Heart is especially prestigious.

“It’s an extremely competitive show, and it's one of the top shows in the southeast,” Bingaman said.

Which is why it was crunch time for Bingaman when she found out she got off the waitlist for the show only one month ago.

“I try to have like 50 paintings for a show, and right now I have probably about 30, so a few less than usual,” Bingaman said.

For festival artists, it's almost like sport, and the stakes can be pretty high.

“You're making yourself vulnerable,” Bingaman said. “You're really taking a piece of yourself and putting it out there for people to judge and criticize or what-have-you.”

The price of losing can be as serious as not making a living.

“They create work all winter long, and then they sell it all summer long,” Pax Bobrow with the Greater Augusta Arts Council said. “They have a route that they follow all around the country, and we're on their route.”

The festival itself has been around for more than 30 years, but it wasn't always a 95,000 person affair.

Bobrow says what makes this stop stand out are the people.

“They tell me that they love Augustans,” Bobrow said. “They come into their booth, they want to talk, they're really interested in their work, and they buy things.”

And buy things they do – to the tune of $1.2 million in visitor spending in the area, according to Jennifer Bowen with the Augusta Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

“Just about every year it comes up in that Top 20 events for things to definitely do around the southeast,” Bowen said.

Those rankings are what draws out-of-town artists and guests to our area.

“A city as a destination -- as a tourist destination -- really benefits from having a lot of tools in its toolbox if you will, and the festival is just one of those things,” Bowen said.

It's a tool that keeps the visitors coming back for more.

“They will say, 'Okay, well the next time I come, I want to make sure I come maybe off-weekend, not during the festival so that I can experience something different,’” Bowen said.

Because the festival has done so well for almost 40 years, Bobrow says we can expect to see some familiar faces.

“We have some who have been coming for over a decade,” Bobrow said.

The fun starts Friday at 5 p.m. and goes until 9 p.m. It's going to be pretty hard to miss since it takes up three blocks of downtown Augusta and the Augusta Common.

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