Art in the “Heart” of a New Vancouver

First Friday Artwalk shoots for biggest turnout yet

With summer in full swing, the forthcoming Art in the Heart Festival in Vancouver on Aug. 6-7 looks to promote the city as an appealing entertainment locale for local residents, as well as contribute to the revitalization of downtown.

On the first weekend in August, downtown Vancouver will have its streets lined with art displays, food vendors and live musical acts. More than a dozen downtown art galleries will have some of their contributing artists set up outside with displays of their work, with many vendors offering to sell their pieces to buyers.

With art its primary theme, the festival focuses on providing a venue for creative-types and their admirers to gather. However, festival planners also have a greater goal in mind, according to Kristy Weaver, a board member of the Vancouver Downtown Association and a senior vice president at Pacific Continental Bank in Vancouver.

"It's about connection and getting feet on the street," Weaver said.

Now in its third year, the 2010 Art in the Heart Festival marks another step forward for event organizers, who have been working harder to publicize the event by strengthening its partnership with the Vancouver Downtown Association – all in the hopes of increasing attendance. Estimates of previous First Fridays recorded approximately 700 attendees. However, event planners this year aim to draw crowds ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 over the course of the two-day festival.

Larger turnout is just one step towards the festival's ultimate goal: getting more people to spend their money downtown. While the VDA has expressed its desire to portray Vancouver as welcoming to the arts community, the organization's principal objective is to aid in the revitalization of downtown. "It's all about promotion. It's about connection and showing people that we have a healthy community," said Sharon Pesut, executive director of Community Choices.

Pesut and others are working hard to get people downtown and to make it clear to everyone that Vancouver has many entertainment options.

With events like the Art in the Heart Festival, the VDA aims to present Vancouver as not just a favorable alternative to other regional entertainment venues, but as the primary destination choice for all surrounding residents.

According to Lee Rafferty, executive director of the Vancouver Downtown Association, the festival is also an opportunity to promote local business. In order to reap the benefits in terms of extra foot traffic and sales, the leaders of the festival see the event and others like it as critical to the development of Vancouver's core.

As Michele Reeves, one of the leading organizers of this event puts it: "We need to emphasize the things we are proud of as we compete with other cities that happen to be nearby or have the same name."

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