Williamsburg Arts Festival

art festival logo

Williamsburg, Virginia annually welcomes a variety of events to celebrate different art forms starting on St. Patrick’s day and continuing until the first day of summer.  

jill pongis and bob harris

jill pongis and bob harris

The Williamsburg Spring Arts Festival falls under the umbrella of the Arts in Williamsburg, where nearby museums showcase exhibits and various art partner companies put on community events.  "{It's} A celebration of our arts from mid-March through Memorial Day weekend,” notes Bob Harris, vice president of tourism for the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance.   For the festivals, Harris works alongside the Director of Tourism Events Jill Pongonis.  Harris and Pongonis started the Spring Arts festival about 3 years ago.  The festivals have grown from originally 20 events to around one-hundred events now also in the Fall.   This year, Pongonis hosted an educational session in March called Arts in Williamsburg which brought awareness to how important the arts are for the community.  

According to Harris, over 40 different events occur during the Spring season, such as the Chalk Art Festival, Art on the River in Yorktown, and Art On The Square, the latter having been around for over 20 years.  Some festival events  have not been around for very long, such as one this year involving rain that went live in early April.   This art and water project introduced an event where patrons create stencils on the sidewalks that can only be seen when it rains.  Starting as a contest, people submit different poems they would like to see featured.

Example Sidewalk stencil. Source: NeverWet-Street-Art-Sencils

Example Sidewalk stencil. Source: NeverWet-Street-Art-Sencils

busch gardens

The festival also hosts various symphonies and opera performances, as well as a big garden tour.  Nearby Busch Gardens participates by hosting a food and wine festival.  “That’s the cool thing about it,” Harris said. “When you have over 40 or 50 events, there is really something for everybody there and different types of events for all people." This year, the Spring Arts Festival also hosted a Botticelli exhibit at the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William and Mary. It is the largest collection of Botticelli art and was at the museum until 5 April.  Aaron DeGroft of the Muscarelle Museum of Art has hosted an event featuring similar exhibits three times. (Last year DeGroft hosted an event focused on Leonardo DiVinci.)   These events are partnered with the Boston Museum of Art Harris explained.   DeGroft negotiates with various people overseas to allow these exhibits to be featured in America.

Harris says events like the Botticelli exhibit encourage not just visitors from all over the country to come to Williamsburg festivals but  international visitors as well. “It really speaks to the whole wide audience that comes to the area,” Pongonis said.  The summer time and Christmas season bring many people to Williamsburg, yet Harris and Pongonis sought to make Williamsburg a Fall and Spring destination as well.  "Our main goal is to really grow visitation by highlighting each of these individual art events as a whole" says Harris.

botticello

“There is an expression that says ‘it takes a lot of individual homes to make a village,’ and that’s really the case in this,” Harris said. “It’s not just Jill and Bob putting on an event every single night… It takes a lot of people who give countless numbers of hours to organize these events and make these events a success for our overall marketing for Spring and Fall Arts to be a success.”

 

BY ALEXANDRA RAMEY

Contributing from Virginia