The 42nd edition of 5th Avenue Arts Festival will have a new location this year.
It will be held this year at the newly constructed Santa Fe College Blount Hall campus outside in the building’s parking lot and between Northwest Third and West University avenues on Northwest Fifth Street.
Returning after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will be held from 11 a..m.-7 p.m. Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. The green space on Northwest Sixth Street will not be used this year, and this year will mark the first time in many years that festival vendors won;’t be set up between Northwest Third and Seventh avenues on Northwest Sixth Street..
The festival is organized by the Cultural Arts Coalition (CAC), a nonprofit organization with a purpose to educate and empower the community through the arts, culture and social awareness programs. As has bee the custom since its creation, festival goers will celebrate the rich cultural heritage of a historic Black community through the arts while enjoying a weekend of top notch art, great music, dancing, children’s activities, great food, vendors, lots of mingling and fun.
The festival’s theme this year will be “Lighting a Path to the Future.”
The theme relates to making sure young people in the community are on a good path now and in the future, said Nkwanda Jah, executive director of the CAC and one of the founders and longtime organizer of the festival.
The festival will kickoff on Friday with an Earth Day celebration at Caring and Learning Sharing School. Earth Day activities at the school will feature music, dancing and poetry created by local artists and educators including Jah, Elois Waters, and Angie Terrell. Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe will read a proclamation and other city officials will make remarks.
The festival’s kickoff reception will be held at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the A. Quinn Jones Center auditorium, 1108 NW Seventh Ave. The late Patricia Hilliard-Nunn, Ph.D., a longtime supporter of the festival and warrior for social justice, will be honored with a performance by the Makare African Dance Family, which she founded, Jah said.
Hosted by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, the traditional Friday reception will feature family members of the late local poet Lynda Johnson, who for 30 years through spoken word told the history of the 5th Avenue Spring Festival. This year, members of her family will continue Johnson’s tradition.
Jah said the two-day festival opens Saturday with faith leaders from all religions and church denominations coming together to pray for a successful festival.
The Black Bettys, a vocalist duo featuring Sherie and Sherita Murphy, who are based in Atlanta, will be the featured act on Saturday. It is reported that the duo consistently captivate and thrill audiences all over the country and internationally with their high energy, passion filled performances and soul stirring vocals. Fusing and crossing various styles and genres of music, these ladies electrify the stage with beauty and a style all their own.”
The festival will also feature a Gospel Showcase early on Saturday with performances by local artists including Sebrenah Phillips, Clenatonia Barber, Keisha Sumpter and Gospel Band 24/7 featuring Lavell Woods.
The entertainment line- up for Saturday includes a circus presentation by the Gainesville Circus Center, the Star Center Theatre, Caring and Sharing Learning School, Gainesville Youth Chorus and Infamous Dance Team. Spoken word performances on Saturday will include Christian Hip Hop with Pastor Jones and Streets R Talkin, Hip Hop with Nate Turner and Hip Hop Fakkonly. There will also be African dance and drumming featuring MossaKan and Nan Nkama.
The entertainment on Sunday will include jazz, big band, gospel, dance and more, including performances by the Jazz Bandits, Gainesville Big Band, Maca Reggae Samba, Compassionate Outreach Ministries Men’s Group, Cynthia Cox, Refresh Praise Dance Troupe, Smooth Flava Dance Troupe and will close with headliner David Richardson and Fire Musical Showcase.
More than 12 artists – local and regional – will display and sell their art work including Gainesville’s own Alyne Harris, an award winning folk artist whose vibrant paintings are favored by collectors.
Lauren Schroeder, of Lake Panasoffkee in Sumpter County, said she will display and sell wood creations from different types of wood including wooden bowls, ornaments, elves and other wood creations. She said this is her first time exhibiting at the 5th Avenue Arts Festival. However, she lived in Gainesville before and would walk to the festival.
“I like the diversity of artists and performers and so much more that brings the world to Gainesville,” Schroeder said.
Nikki Scott, of Coral Creations in Gainesville, hand collects shells and sand from Florida beaches, the Bahamas and other beaches to create such things as ornaments, picture frames, beach/snow globes and more.
“This will be my first time exhibiting and selling my work at the 5th Avenue Arts Festival,” Scott said. “I like the diversity, enjoy the types of music and meeting people from all over who come to buy art.”
Future plans for the festival include Jah transitioning her co-organizing duties of the festival over to Courtney Scott, current chair of the festival’s organizing committee.. She added that she will serve as an elder counselor to help in whatever capacity she is needed.
“I’m passing the torch, transitioning gradually,” said Jah, adding she and Scott have been working together for 3-4 years.
Jah said Carol Richardson, the festival’s talent coordinator, is also on the team.
“She is a big help — great,” Jah said. “She does all of it well.”
The takeaway said Scott is the appreciation of the Pleasant Street community and the culture and history that has been birthed out of it.
“I hope people have an appreciation of the festival as a representation of the history of Gainesville,” Scott said.
“As an arts presenter, it is exciting to see cultural heritage programs, music, art and vendors return to the 5th Avenue/6th street community,” wrote Richardson via email. “The 5th Avenue community is rich in history and the festival has provided a platform for young artists to showcase their work, seasoned performers to entertain, art displays from glass, wood sculptures, paintings to creative T- Shirts designs and local independent artists.”