Despite always having had a connection to downtown Huntsville through its performances and events, Huntsville Festival of the Arts (HFA) hasn’t had a physical presence there—until now.
The Festival recently set up shop in The Other Side Studio, across from River Mill Park.
Steve Campbell and Noreen Mitchell, who own the building and are avid supporters of the arts, “have always wanted this space to be a space for artists, which is really special because that’s not common to hear that,” says Dan Watson, executive director of HFA.
The Festival plans to use the multi-use space as “a creative hub for mostly arts education, but also for all kinds of different artists to come and use and develop work,” says Watson.
They have already begun to use the space for children’s and youth programming.
“In Huntsville, there’s not a lot for really young kids for drama and theatre and artistic expression,” says theatre educator, Christina Serra. “The classes will be based not so much on the goal of the performance at the end, but just being creative and imaginative. And if kids are interested in theatre, but are a little bit wary of performing, maybe a bit shy, this gives them that experience without the expectation of a performance at the end.”
Serra has also taught music programs for parents and tots and “I’m itching figure out something here, because I really love doing it,” she says. “But part of what I feel like we’re doing with these ideas is figuring out how to work with the community and what they want. I don’t want to come here and just kind of impose my own thoughts on the community.”
There are also PA Day camps and, for older kids, there’s TPAN or Teen Performing Arts Night, led by Alberta Robinette and Sarah Vanasse. “It’s a chance for teens to come together and it’s really driven by them—what they want to learn or do or talk about,” says Watson.
“We see this as a spot that as it grows, that there will be ongoing classes or workshops, but it will also be a space for artists in the community to come and either develop work or hold their own workshops. The space is available for rent, and it’s meant to be affordable,” says Watson. “One of the things ideas on the table is to create an artist residency program here, so that we can offer space to performance-based artists, but it could be visual artists as well, to develop their work.”
Small intimate performances are possible in the HFA studio, too.
“We’re super excited, especially when the summertime rolls around and we can throw those doors open,” says Watson, noting that the Festival has used the studio for events like Nuit Blance North in the past. “The Festival has always been connected to downtown, but we’ve never had more of a physical presence. So it’s nice to be here.”
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