March 2, 2013
A four-hour showcase highlighted the artistic talents of Western Albemarle County students Saturday night.
Hundreds of people came out to support the first "ArtFest in the West" at The Lodge at Old Trail in Crozet.
The event was a way to spread the word about the arts programs at the elementary, middle and high schools in the county's western-feeder pattern by bringing orchestras, bands and other performers together for a night full of performances.
"Sometimes I don't think our community is aware of all the things that are going on around here," said Joel Hartshorn, band director at Western Albemarle High School. "This is really an event to help feature some of the special things that are going on and see the wonderful, talented kids we have."
Western Albemarle High School student Eric Xu took to the stage with the jazz ensemble. The tenth grader has been playing the trumpet in school for five years and says having a chance to practice music during the school day is a much-appreciated creative outlet.
"It's been amazing. I love having an opportunity where I can just go into school and let out some artistic things I can't usually do in science or math," said Xu.
Henley Middle School band director Kate Meier says arts programs are a way to supplement core academic classes and showcase student learning in a different way.
"It's just a different way for kids to express themselves. It's a whole different way to play with creativity," said Meier.
But with schools strapped for cash and forced to make cuts to balance the budget, parents looked for ways to not only protect arts programs but also help them grow.
"This is always the hardest thing with the arts because it's the first thing that's easiest to cut," said ArtFest organizer Debbie Gordon Patashnik.
ArtFest organizers seek to open up the conversation about the importance of arts in educating the youth and raise money to support -- and expand -- those efforts.
And with hundreds of spectators at Saturday's showcase, that means thousands of dollars filtered right back into the arts programs, helping to pay for new uniforms for the WAHS band, drama department productions, musical instruments and other arts-related costs.
"It shows that there are people out there who actually care about music and care about art in the community and it's such a great thing for the entire area to have," said Xu. "It's great to see this outpouring of support for us."