Art on the Avenue is an annual arts festival celebrating the multicultural diversity of the Del Ray community in Alexandria. The festival is held on the first Saturday in October, rain or shine. Last year, over 50,000 visitors spanned twelve city blocks to see talented artists. This year, the rain dampened that number, but brave souls, including myself, came out to support the all-volunteer supported event.
I never knew how creative you could be until I saw the amazing creations of over 350 artists. There was lots of jewelry, paintings, photography, pottery, glass blowing pieces and wood furniture. Some items that stood out were personalized jewelry boxes, greeting cards, Raku fired sculptures, African baskets, soapstone candles, hand-painted pepper mills, photographic collages and wearable art.
There were a lot of local mom inspired and parent created items, which gives me another reason to support Art on the Avenue. Some artists also sell their items on Etsy. You can visit the Art on the Avenue website for a link to the artists’ websites.
Trish Thackston Designs features handcrafted sterling silver jewelry by Alexandria mom, Trish Thackston. Her eight year old daughter, Mia Rose, also has her own line of children’s jewelry. Twenty five percent of Mia Rose’s proceeds are donated to Heifer International to help fight world hunger. Christi Smethurst couldn’t find stylish hats for her children so she created Lexy Lu Designs featuring handmade ribbon fleece hats for children. Finchberry Soap Co. is a small, woman-owned soapery in northern Virginia creating hand-made soaps, salts and shea butter lotions. Owner Ashley Robertson also offers soap making classes. Sunny Lee Studio is a father/daughter collaboration of artists Heather Brockman Lee and Mark Brockman focusing on watercolor, oil, pastels and hand-painted Christmas stockings. Toymaker Patrick Donovan creates U.S. Wood Toys using non-toxic paints in his Silver Spring shop.
The art doesn’t stop there. The Avenue hosts four stages of music from jazz, swing, honky tonk, Irish, blues, Latin and all kinds of rock. The Twin Stage has continuous music, while the Homegrown Stage features performers from the Del Ray area. The Acoustic Stage features individual performers playing their own music while the Del Ray Music Festival Stage has musicians from the Del Ray Music Festival. Pick up music by the performers at the Art on the Avenue Festival Store.
Children are a major part of the festival. The Children’s Stage allows youth to showcase their talents. This year featured 15 year old magician Avi Littky from TC Williams High School, two Virginia dance schools, Bob Brown Puppets and Del Ray Performing Arts Center’s School of Rock. There are plenty of activities for kids to create their own artwork. On the field of Mt. Vernon Community School there is a Kids Art Corner where you can paint a pumpkin or make your own scarecrow. The Del Ray Artisans had a tent nearby with sand art on the street.
Local businesses showed customer appreciation by having spin art, face painting and a moon bounce outside their offices and stores. Del Ray’s United Methodist Church had games and a petting zoo. Most of the activities are free. Face painting in front of The Purple Goose was $8. For a small donation, the Alexandria Seaport Foundation showed children how to build a miniature boat.
All of these fun things are bound to make you hungry. Sample Del Ray’s unique community by visiting the food court held in the Mt. Vernon Community School field. From pizza to plantains and crab cakes and cake pops, there are familiar faces from the farmers market along with Brazilian BBQ, Greek and Asian Fusion vendors. The majority of the food comes from neighborhood eateries including Home Made Pizza Company and the newest restaurant, Pork Barrel BBQ. Who wouldn’t want to sample grandma’s homemade pie? Be it rhubarb or apple, youth and adults can enter the pie-baking contest to earn cash prizes. After judging which takes places next to the Festival store, purchase a slice for $3 with all proceeds going to SCAN-Stop Child Abuse Now.
Art on the Avenue takes place on Mt. Vernon between Hume and Bellefonte Avenues from 10am to 6pm. There are plenty of brightly colored port-a-potties scattered throughout the festival grounds, the easiest ones to find are by the food court and Kids Art Corner areas. While I got there in the late morning, parking was impossible to find on nearby residential streets. Mt. Vernon Avenue is closed to traffic, only allowing pedestrians and strollers to travel through. If it should rain, all the artists stalls are covered with tents. There is free DASH bus transportation from the Braddock Road Metro.
Art on the Avenue is a surefire way of enjoying a fall afternoon with your kids, artists and the Del Ray Community. For more information, visit www.artontheavenue.org.
Photos by Kathleen Molloy