Fact Friday 431 - Art History and Creating Community

Fact Friday 431 - Art History and Creating Community

Happy Friday!

This week's Fact Friday comes to you from an amazing friend of the 704 Shop family, DC Lucchesi! 


Born during the turbulent times of the mid 1960’s, Charlotte’s Festival in the Park has become a cherished tradition in Charlotte, uniting people from diverse backgrounds through a celebration of arts, crafts, music, and entertainment. Fast forward several more decades, and the Festival board realized another opportunity to create community engagement in a fast-growing city. This time, through the Kings Drive Art Walk, a spring fine arts event that pays homage to its roots while embracing new opportunities for artistic expression.

Festival Board, 1960s.

Mark Boone, the board president of Festival in the Park, reflects on the origins of this beloved event, saying, "Festival in the Park was created from a desire to showcase public spaces by bringing the community together in a celebration of visual and performing arts." He recounts how the first Festival, held in September 1964, was a pivotal moment aimed at highlighting the grand opening of Freedom Park, symbolizing a union between public spaces and artistic expression.

Freedom Park historic aerial. 

Festival in the Park, 1970s.

Patrons at Festival in the Park.

The legacy of Festival in the Park runs deep within Charlotte's arts community, with Julie Austin, the executive director and daughter of the festival's founder, playing a pivotal role. "Her dad actually founded Festival in the Park in 1964," Boone notes. "Julie and her brother Frank are fiercely protective of their dad's legacy, what he started in the 1960s." This familial dedication underscores the festival's enduring commitment to its mission of bringing the community together through the arts.


Children's art at the Festival.

Candle maker at the Festival.

Balloon artist at the Festival.

Artist tents at the Festival.

The origin story of Festival in the Park is intertwined with Charlotte's history in the 1960s; a time of transition and social change. Boone elaborates, "The origin story goes back to Stan Brookshire and what was happening in Charlotte in the 1960s in trying to break apart the segregated South." John Belk, leading the chamber at the time, sought to promote unity and showcase Charlotte's progress through events like the inaugural Festival in the Park.

Astronomy demo at the Festival.

Scouting demo at the Festival.

Scouting demo at the Festival.

Rope bridge at the Festival.

As the festival evolved over the decades, it expanded its reach and influence, culminating in the creation of the Kings Drive Art Walk in 2011. This new endeavor was born out of Mecklenburg County's redevelopment efforts, including the unveiling of a new section of the Little Sugar Creek Greenway at the former site of the Charlottetown Mall. Festival in the Park saw an opportunity to continue its legacy of community engagement in another beautiful, public venue, thus beginning the Kings Drive Art Walk tradition.

Mixed media artist Michelle DeFillipo is a Charlotte native and one of the talents on display at this year’s Kings Drive Art Walk. She says events like this encouraged her to pursue her creative passion.

"To be in Kings Drive Art Walk is extra special because it's my hometown,” added DeFillipo. “When I was little, my mom took me every year to Festival in the Park, and that was how I dreamed of being an artist." 

The Kings Drive Art Walk is now an annual celebration of art, culture, and community spirit in Charlotte. More than 100 artists converge along the Greenway, showcasing a diverse range of fine art. This curated showcase strategically precedes Mother's Day, offering a unique opportunity for visitors to engage with artists, explore artworks, and connect with the vibrant arts scene in Charlotte.

Reflecting on the festival's journey and ongoing mission, Boone expressed pride in Festival in the Park's role in bringing the Charlotte community together. Through initiatives like the Kings Drive Art Walk, the organization remains dedicated to fostering a vibrant arts culture that is open and accessible to everyone.

The 14th edition of the Kings Drive Art Walk is on May 4th and 5th. Find out more about it at https://festivalinthepark.org



Original commentary by DC Lucchesi. 

Email chris@704shop.com if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!

“History is not the past, it is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.” - James Baldwin

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