If the weather behaves itself, this year’s A-Town Get Down Art & Music Festival should prove to be yet another memorable example of the type of one-of-a-kind events Savannah seems to excel at.
The festival brings together a variety of local artists, musicians and community organizations to interact with the public block-party style in a number of engaging ways, including performances, live mural painting, a large-scale projection art installation, face painting, a dance party and much more.
What’s makes this year’s A-Town Get Down more interesting is that it is being held at a new location, on Indian Street under the Talmadge Bridge, which should provide a uniquely immersive environment.
The A-Town festival derives its name from Alex Townsend (“A-Town” as his friends called him), an artist and musician who was attending SCAD when his life was tragically cut short by a car wreck on Valentine’s Day in 2010. Alex was 21 at the time. His father, Tom, who lives in St. Louis, created the festival as a celebration of his son’s life and a testament to how much Alex loved Savannah and how he bloomed here creatively.
“Through the A-Town Get Down, we found a way to not just honor [Alex], but honor him and the place where he really came into his own,” says Tom Townsend. “He grew up in St. Louis, Mo., many miles away. We could have created A-Town there, but it’s not about where he grew up. It’s about where he was really, really happy, and continuing that relationship for him, you might say. Celebrating him and the place he was proud to have found for himself.”
After many years at the Morris Center, Townsend decided to relocate the festival to Indian Street to have a broader appeal and be more accessible to a wider swath of the Savannah community. Townsend’s goal with the festival all along has been to involve as many different facets of the Savannah community as possible, which is also why the festival is free and open to the public from noon until 5 p.m.
After 5 p.m., there will be a ticketed music event that will be a rollicking good time. Whether or not you decide to attend the evening portion, there will be plenty going on all day that should appeal to everyone, old or young, black or white, incomes high or low, sartorially khaki or cool, as well as the highly cultured or simply curious.
“When we were at the Charles Morris Center — a fantastic venue run by people I will always feel indebted to for their support from the start — we were not as visibly in the streets with the people we need to reach out to and inspire,” says Townsend.
“The move to Indian Street under the bridge takes us literally to the streets. I should also mention that Alex was a fan of the Talmadge Bridge itself.”
This year’s festival will include more food trucks, larger stages, more bands and more live art than previous years. This year’s musical lineup includes Grammy Award winner Bobby Rush, Cracker, retired Col. Bruce Hampton, AJ Ghent Band, local groups Missionary Blues, Waits & Co., Savannah Children’s Choir and more.
The list of participating artists is as stellar as ever and includes various creative contributions by R. Land, Betsy Cain, Katherine Sandoz, Will Penny, Shea Slemmer, Matt Toole and many others. Community organizations Loop It Up, Emergent Savannah and others will also be engaging with festival goers in various fun and exciting ways.
Arts coordinator Jose Ray, who has worked with the festival in past years, is particularly excited about this year’s events.
“I get to wrangle up all these great artists and mix and mingle them in different ways,” says Ray. “The intent of doing so is to create an interesting outcome that is unique to the event and allows the public to be engaged with the artists and sometimes with the outcome of the art created …
“Another joyful aspect to my role is facilitating this experience for kids and families that might not otherwise have access to such opportunities. The ATGD organization really strives to reach many of the area schools and get those students and their families to come out and participate.”
“The unique thing about the ATGD festival is the way it invites guests to really get involved. When you show up at the festival, you’re not just there as an observer, but part of the show itself.”
IF YOU GO
What: A-Town Get Down Art & Music Festival
When: Noon-midnight March 25
Where: Under the Talmadge Bridge at Indian Street
Cost: Free before 5 p.m.; $35 after $5 p.m. or $25 for students/military; $95 VIP