The first ever Astoria Community Festival will provide visitors and locals alike a chance to hobnob with artists, attend lectures and symposiums and take in some musical performances

"We want to help people in Astoria know what we've got," said Patrick Overton, chairman of the Astoria Arts Commission. "We want to show Astoria has a great amount of cultural wealth."

The Astoria Community Festival aims to do just that, showcasing local artists and the arts with a weekend's worth of exhibits, panel discussions, gallery tours, music and children's activities, Friday, Nov. 15 through Sunday, Nov. 17.

The event is designed to draw together the various organizations that promote local artistic and cultural events and activities - groups that don't frequently have the opportunity to collaborate, Overton said.

"We wanted to get arts and cultural organizations talking to each other," he said.

The event grew out of a year-long "cultural assessment" sponsored by the arts commission in 2000. Funded by the Oregon Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, the study looked at the state of the arts in Astoria. The study resulted in proposals such as setting up a cultural center/arts "incubator," but with limited resources available, a more modest proposal for a community festival seemed like a good starting point, Overton said.

Astoria and the North Coast have long harbored a vibrant arts community, but with limited money available for projects, many of its members find themselves in competition for the available resources, he said.

Instead of creating lots of new activities, the Astoria Community Festival has coordinated existing events, such as the CCC faculty art show, the "Arts Night Out" gallery tour and the Umbrella Parade, which are already established events in their own right.

"It's not out of the ordinary that this many things would be happening on a weekend," Overton said.

The CCC faculty arts show is part of the "Arts Night Out" Friday night, which features a tour of seven local galleries featuring the works of dozens of artists. The arts commission and Astoria Visual Arts Association sponsor the Artists' Studio Tours on Sunday, in which five local artists open up their studios to the public.

Informational events include "A Spirit of Place," a presentation Friday night by Robert Melnick, dean of the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts, on the historic preservation movement. Clatsop Community College faculty members will share their views on the role of the school's art department at the college and in the community in a panel discussion Friday afternoon.

On Sunday, RiverSea Gallery hosts a symposium on collaborative artwork as part of its "word&hand2" exhibit.

Musical performances range from the unique roots revival sound of Baby Gramps Saturday night at the River Theater, to Portland's Magnolia Chamber Ensemble's presentation of Gypsy-inspired classical works Sunday at the Liberty Theater. Local musicians Dick Weissman and David Crabtree present their new CD at a performance Saturday night at the Voodoo Room.

If this year's inaugural event proves successful, the group plans to seek funding to put on a more ambitious festival next year, possibly up to a week long, that will tie in with the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, Overton said.

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