REJUVENATING A BELOVED CLASSIC
Come June, the Wilsonville Festival of the Arts will be back for its 18th year.
The annual festival is the Wilsonville Arts & Culture Council signature event and brings juried artists, performers, area student art, interactive art activities and a silent auction to entertain and introduce local artisans with the community. In January, the Wilsonville Arts & Culture Council announced that the festival will have a new director.
A semi-recent North Carolina transplant who currently resides in Eugene, Sarah Wolfe has taken over the helm of the festival as the new director of the festival. With 20 years of experience within the musical, visual, cultural and performing arts, Wolfe specializes in developing, promoting and managing a wide range of events and outreach programs.
The festival has seen a rotation of directors over the the past several years, but Wolfe hopes to provide some additional stability to the event by being at the helm for the next couple events. As the head of the festival's planning committee, Wolfe hopes to establish an oversight committee to "get a little bit more focus" in the planning and implementation of the festival as a whole.
"I am hoping to do it this year and the next couple of years so that I can look toward making some changes in the longer term instead just being in and out," Wolfe said. "I've come up with three main goals for the festival this year."
Her first goal is reaching out into the Latino community in the Wilsonville and metro areas to encourage Latino artist, writer and performance artist participation. With 12 percent of the Wilsonville residents identifying as Latino, Wolfe says that she she wants to make a real effort in connecting with that demographic because it "is a very significant part of the population."
"We want to make sure that it's not just a superficial tacking on," Wolfe says. "We want the Latino population really integrated into the whole process."
Wolfe's second goal is to reach "the largest part of the population" in Wilsonville, which is the age 25-44 bracket of Generation X and Y.
"A lot of them are single and looking for things to do and we want to appeal to that population," Wolfe says. "Part of how I'm going to do that is through my third goal of bringing more contemporary elements into the festival."
Historically, the festival hasn't offered many contemporary art forms. Wolfe's first step in changing this is in the form of contemporary installation art. Wolfe says that she is looking for a "visceral experience" for festival goers with several large, colorful installations throughout the festival. To appeal to the midrange portion of the population, she has also added a new media category, encompassing virtual reality, digital arts and others outside of the classical categories seen at most festivals.
Another way that she hopes to grow the festival is in terms of attendance. With a background in event planning, her drive for growing and improving the event shines through while talking about the logistics and flow of the festival. Although she wants to capture certain demographics at this year's festival, Wolfe says that she's committed to helping facilitate an event that's inclusive and enjoyable for all ages and backgrounds.
"It's a smallish festival and in the past it's tended to focus on the Wilsonville communities, so again I'm trying to reach out a little bit farther than that to expand so that people from farther away will come to the festival," Wolfe says.
With about 60 artists having applied to participate in this year's festival, Wolfe is now focusing on reaching out to writers to take part in the — newly named — Art of the Word Authors Pavilion.
"I've been doing events planning for many years and there's a kind of a way that I do things," she says with a laugh. "So I'm excited to be working with the Wilsonville Festival of the Arts because it's the whole and I'm not just working with a part where I can create this whole, bigger vision in collaboration with the team the knows it very, very well to make sure that I'm not stepping on anybody's toes and that I'm keeping some of the really treasured elements of the event while still having some autonomy to add some new elements."