The eighth annual A-Town Get Down Art & Music Festival is going down April 21, and it's one of the many festivals that gives Savannah its distinctiveness.
Now in its eighth year, the festival derives its name from Alex Townsend — referred to as A-Town by his friends — whose life was unexpectedly cut short at age 21 while a student at Savannah College of Art and Design. His father, Tom Townsend, wanted to honor his son's creative energy and give back to a city that had meant so much to him, so he founded the A-Town Get Down, which partners with local organizations for outreach to disadvantaged youth in various capacities.
The festival, which is taking place on Indian Street between Fahm and Warner streets under the bridge, is a kaleidoscope of creativity and fun for all ages. As with every year, there will also be food and drink galore.
This year features an assortment of musical performances, art experiences, and hands-on workshops from noon until 10 p.m. Musical guests include headliner Chuck Leavell, with performances throughout the day by the likes of Phoebe Elliott, the Savannah Children's Choir, Britt Scott, The New Familiars, Southern Avenue, Bernard Purdie, Randall Bramblett and other special guests. There will also be a couple of jam sessions where accomplished and aspiring musicians can perform together for “mutual inspiration.”
Art is also a huge component of the A-Town festival and this year will feature a variety of workshops, like the recurring Adobe Arts Lab, the Creative Coast Mural Wall Timelapse, canvas bag decorating with Savannah Arts Academy, and portrait paintings. And like previous years, there will be live painting by a selection of local artists throughout the day, including Dana Richardson, Deb Oden, Duff Yong, Todd Schroeder, Denise Carson and Adolfo Hernandez. After dusk, multimedia artist Will Penny will be presenting one of his live digital projections.
The art component of the festival is organized by local artist and jack-of-many-trades, Jose Ray, and is always a source of fun and inspiration.
“We've got a lot of different hands-on art stations where the guests get to work and interact with professional artists,” says Ray. “Making a career in the creative fields can sometimes seem like an impossible task, so we try to break down that perception by putting aspiring artists in direct contact with the folks who are out there doing it right now. In addition to the experience of working with the professionals, the guests get to keep the art that they create!”
In addition, the festival is also featuring longtime partner Molly Lieberman and Loop It Up Savannah's #MoverShakerGameChanger project, which aims to inspire local youth through art.
“This year Loop It Up Savannah is excited to partner with A-Town Get Down on the #MoverShakerGameChanger Project,” says Lieberman. “This project gives us an opportunity to bring 30-plus community members who are doing amazing work to make Savannah a better place into our partner schools to spend time with our students. Each #MoverShakerGameChanger guest shares some information about their work, and then the students conduct interviews. Ultimately, we are painting a 3- by 6-foot mural of each guest, which will be on display at the festival, and writing biographies of each of our guests.
“This project has been an awesome experience for our students because it gives them a chance to meet a bunch of the people who have worked long and hard to make Savannah the special place that it is today. It also gives our students a chance to use their reading, writing and comprehension skills to engage in a process that is fun and exciting for them. Of course, the mural painting component is incredibly fun and gives our students a chance to work together in teams, each bringing their unique gifts to the table.
“Through bringing this project to SCCPSS and the 21st Century After School Program, we will be bringing over 300 students to the A-Town Get Down, where they will be able to see their murals on display. Loop It Up Savannah programs focus on supporting the development of our young people's healthy sense of themselves — both as individuals and as members of a community. Projects like this allow each participant to put their knowledge, vision and gifts to work, while creating something beautiful with their peers and being part of the incredible celebration of Savannah, creativity and joy which the A-Town Get Down brings to our community.”