This year the Westobou Festival, a five-day arts festival held in Augusta, Georgia, and North Augusta, South Carolina, has ramped up its arts programming with the addition of its first official visual arts curator: former Atlanta gallerist Nancy Solomon.
Solomon has brought together an exciting array of artists, both local and international. Atlanta art-goers will recognize the work of Scott Ingram and Lonnie Holley, both of whom Solomon worked with through her gallery. Others include Janet Biggs and Cao Guimarães, video artists respectively based in Brooklyn and Brazil. “This is exactly the type of programming I’d wanted to do with my gallery,” said Solomon, who closed her gallery a year ago. “[For Westobou] I really wanted to bring some outstanding experimental projects to Augusta, and the committee of officials has been very enthusiastic and supportive.”
In the past, executive director Molly McDowell did much of the programming in addition to managing other festival aspects. The festival comprises five components: film, music, words, dance, and visual. Though these components were organized independently, according to Solomon a surprising relationship has emerged. One of the festival’s main events is a discussion with Philippe Petit, the star of the Oscar-winning film Man on Wire, who famously performed an illegal high-wire walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. Solomon brought in another World Trade Center related piece, a multi-channel sound installation and photograph work by artist Stephen Vitiello, titled World Trade Center Recordings: The Winds After Hurricane Floyd (1999/2002). For this piece, Vitiello attached contact microphones to the windows of the 91st floor of the North Tower to record high-altitude winds and the creaks of the building. “I saw [Vitiello’s] piece at Art Basel Miami in 1999 and wanted to show it in my gallery,” said Solomon, “but after 9/11, I wanted to wait for the right time.”
The majority of the visual arts events are free, though for the first time at Westobou, there is an exhibition where the art on view is for sale. This exhibition, re: noun, was curated on the idea of traditional art genres with a twist. “The idea,” said Solomon, “is to show work to the community of Augusta that is accessible, that they can enjoy as a starting point. [There’s] no non-objective, no abstract work, but it turned out to be very interesting.” Solomon added that the money from the sales of work will go towards the festival. She also mentioned that the organizers of the Westobou Festival have plans to incorporate an art fair component in the future, and that re: noun is an experiment towards that.
“In thinking about the festival, I brought in three artists [whose work] I found in art fairs,” mused Solomon. “I saw Vitiello’s piece in ’99 at Art Basel Miami, Cao Guimarães at Frieze London last year, and Jackie Sumell’s work at Prospect.1 in New Orleans. One should make an effort to travel and see work.”
Other festival events include performances by Janelle Monáe and L.A. Dance Project, founded by dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied. “This is an ambitious festival,” said Solomon. “They want this to be one of the top art festivals in the United States … like Spoleto or Aspen.”
The Westobou Festival runs with both free and ticketed events in Augusta this Wednesday-Sunday, October 3-7, 2012. Check the Westobou website for more info.