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By Ron Wray

Neighborhoods, like people, have personalities. They have bloodlines running through them. Norfolk’s Ghent community’s Stockley Gardens Fall Arts Festival, now in its thirty-fifth year, is a distinct feature of the area’s personality. It is integral to the life and history of Ghent, like blood running through its metaphorical veins. A charming, artsy, historical area in the heart of Norfolk, Ghent will again host the successful arts festival in lovely Stockley Gardens park from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on October 19 and from noon to 5 p.m. on October 20. Stockley Gardens, now one of the region’s largest arts festivals, will host over 135 visual artists and 10 musical acts as well as children’s performances and activities. 

Artists come from Hampton Roads and throughout the U.S. and as far away as Israel. The free festival, this year expecting to attract more than 30,000 visitors, with shows in the Spring and the Fall, will also feature a variety of food vendors and other activities. Stockley Gardens Arts Festival began in 1984, growing from an initial 20 artists and 200 visitors.

The years have seen a great deal of growth for the festival, culminating in this year’s largest-ever number of artists, all media represented, and anticipated record crowd. It grew out of an earlier festival in Stockley Gardens benefiting a clinic which then moved downtown. The move didn’t prove as successful as hoped for, and Ghent residents launched a campaign to return an arts festival to Ghent, resulting in the current, long-standing event.

Art media will include painting, printmaking, jewelry, drawing, glass, mixed media, leather, photography, pottery, metal, sculpture, and wood. Sponsors say mixed media works are “really up and coming,” and “paintings are always a large attraction.” Artists compete for cash prizes, and there are exhibits and prizes for emerging student artists. Stockley Gardens has been voted one of the top art festivals in Eastern Virginia by “Virginia Living Magazine” readers.

Artists come from a wide ranged of ethnic, nationality, racial, and geographical backgrounds, including a significant number of Asian-American artists.

Stockley continues to feature some of the best of regional independent artists. Bands and solo performers will include prominent and up-and-coming regional artists such as Brackish Water Jamboree, one of the area’s best roots music bands,  the inventive, rapidly- rising Mosquito Cabaret, The Heart Stompers, formerly known widely as Gina Dalmas & The Cow Tippin’ Playboys, who “reach deep into the roots of country music but end up making magic,” and Regina Scott Sanford’s blend of hip hop and poetry, among numerous others.  Children’s performers include the STAHR Suzuki Violin Group and Carrie’s Hula Hoops. Musical artists are selected by a local volunteer well-versed in the area’s independent music scene.

Artists will include: Tom Barnes, watercolorist Tom Barnes, featuring stylized florals, landscapes, and figures; Amanda Outcalt, mixed media artist from Norfolk and a teacher in Norfolk Public 

Schools, whose evocative works include painting, drawings, metalwork, and jewelry; and Pam hill, whose imaginative painting has been described by her as “like keeping a journal,” and reflects her life and beliefs as a Buddhist.

Hope House Foundation Development Director Elena Montello, who has directed the festival for 19 years, says Stockley “is a great neighborhood event with a community feel.” “There are porch parties,” she said, “book sales, and surroundings including lovely homes, a church and synagogue. People connect with neighbors and friends they haven’t seen for awhile. There is a real feeling of family at the Stockley Gardens Arts Festival.”

There is also a significant economic impact on community and the area, with artists and visitors staying in area hotels and patronizing local restaurants, pubs, and other businesses. 

Norfolk’s Hope House Foundation sponsors the event with broad community support, including its Presenting Sponsor Towne Bank and numerous other businesses and media. Funds raised through the event help support crucial rent, transportation, food, furnishings, medical care, and other services for area citizens with intellectual and physical disabilities, provided by Hope House Foundation. The festival is Hope House Foundation’s principal fundraiser. 

The high quality of the artwork is a distinguishing feature of Stockley, Montello says, always judged by an arts professional of national stature after review by a highly qualified panel. This year’s judge, Lynn Marsden-Atlass is Director of the Arthur Ross Gallery and Curator of the University of Pennsylvania Art Collection in Philadelphia. Her work as Senior Curator of The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts included the noted “In Private Hands: 200 Years of American Painting.” Previously, she was Curator of American and Contemporary Art at The Chrysler Museum in Norfolk.

Art winners will be announced during the After Party, open to artist, sponsors, and the community, on October 19. There will be live music, food and beverage vendors.

“I love doing the festival,” Montello said, “it’s my baby, watching wonderful artists and musicians transform their careers through this significant stepping stone.” “Some have gone from student artists to accomplished national talents,” she continued. She noted Clayton Singleton among the visual artists and musical artists Anthony Rosano and Mosquito Cabaret as shining examples who have increased their public stature through their roles at the Stockley Gardens Arts Festival.

Once again, the Ghent community will come together at the Stockley Gardens Arts Festival, welcoming many artists, visitors, arts and music lovers, kids and adults from throughout the area and the world to its charming, distinctive world

Fall Stockley Gardens Arts Festival: Music Lineup

Saturday, October 19

11 AM: Esoteric Ramblers

11:45 AM: Lena Klett

12:45 PM: House of Cards

2 PM: Michael Paul Lawson

3:30 PM: Mosquito Cabaret

5 PM: The Heart Stompers

 

Sunday, October 20

Noon: Regina Scott Sanford

12:45 PM: Saint Juliens Creek Revival

1:45 PM: Dustin Furlow

3:30 PM: Brackish Water Jamboree