What to expect: Arts Huntsville gears up for this weekend’s 41st Panoply Arts Festival
HUNTSVILLE – This weekend marks the 41st Panoply Arts Festival at Big Spring Park in Huntsville. Over four decades, Panoply Arts Festival has evolved into a premiere arts weekend showcasing the greater Huntsville area’s innovative spark through a three-day celebration of art, music, and more.
The main sponsor this year is Mazda Toyota Manufacturing.
Panoply’s 41st celebration kicks off at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 28, showcasing regionally celebrated bands and musicians, the fan-favorite juried Art Marketplace, art and STEAM interactives, a large-scale community art project, craft beer and wine, food trucks and more. This year the festival will again span across Church Street and into Big Spring Park East.
Featured Music: Panoply 2023 will feature over 30 bands and musicians that make Huntsville the place to be for music today. Performers from all genres — jazz, rock, R&B, indie rock, blues, pop and more – will entertain festivalgoers on Panoply’s two stages: the Indie Stage and the Showcase Stage, presented by Pepsi.
The Showcase stage will feature a homegrown favorite, The Wanda Band, on Friday. Wanda made her solo debut at Panoply in 2012 as a Panoply Homegrown Talent Winner and in 2019 she debuted her band at Concerts in the Park. She has carved out a name for herself regionally, gracing the stage at last year’s Shoals Fest, and she was recently named one of the “5 Huntsville Bands with the best shot to become Famous” by Matt Wake, Entertainment Reporter with Alabama Media Group.
Saturday features a medley of music that starts when the gates open at 10 a.m. The festival welcomes eight regional powerhouses that are gracing the Pepsi Showcase stage for the first time. Some Saturday performers include: newly-formed Trick Zipper Trio (comprised of Aaron Stapler, Dusty French, and Billie Allen) and Karmessa, a singer-songwriter known locally for her performances with Element XI and touring nationally with Ruben Studdard. Closing out Saturday night is Huntsville’s own Rob Aldridge and the Proponents. Uncut Magazine wrote in 2022 that “Rob is an Alabama native who is finally starting to get noticed as a songwriting frontman capable of gnawing a hook and a finely weighted turn of phrase,” and NPR calls them “an Alabama rock & roll band you need to know.”
On Sunday, the Showcase Stage will kick off with The Silver Silos featuring local favorite Alan Little on drums and close out with up-and-coming 17-year-old country music singer/songwriter Jackson Chase. In between, performers Pat Jamar, Luna Koi, Remy Neal and Moontown Music will take the stage.
While the Showcase stage features local and regional bands, Panoply’s Indie Stage, located in Big Spring East, plays host to many of Huntsville’s singer/songwriters, duos, and instrumentalists such as Josh Taylor, Winslow Davis, Chelsea Who, WD Flow, Christie and Alli and one of Huntsville’s favorite husband and wife duos, Common Man.
Community Art – “UNITY”presented by Aerojet Rocketdyne: Festivalgoers of all ages will stretch their creative muscles again with a hands-on large-scale community art activity, “UNITY.” It has been six years since “UNITY” premiered at Panoply. “UNITY” is a larger-than-life structure that helps us celebrate our uniqueness and strengthens our ties to each other. Nancy Belmont created “UNITY,” an interactive public art project, to raise consciousness about the labels we give ourselves and others and to explore how those labels support and limit building interconnected, interesting communities.
Art OutLoud Stage: Panoply welcomes the return of the Art OutLoud Stage featuring spoken word performances from local literary figures and poets including, but not limited to: CeCe the Poet, author Betty Bolte, the A&M Bulldog Players, and Andrew Gonzales. (Full schedule available on artshuntsville.org.)
Art Marketplace: The Art Marketplace provides prime shopping in a beautiful setting. This year Panoply’s juried Art Marketplace will welcome more than 100 visual artists. One of the most popular features of the festival, the 2023 Art Marketplace will showcase both longtime festival artists as well as over 40 first-time Panoply exhibitors. This year’s artists come from 23 states, with some traveling from as far as Connecticut to New Mexico and Wisconsin to Florida for Panoply 2023.
Student Art Tent and Face Painting Tent: The Student Art Tent, presented by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Alabama, will once again be located in Big Spring Park East.; this popular festival destination features artwork from students of all ages that attend public and private schools across Madison County. Across the park, festivalgoers will also celebrate their creative side at the Panoply Face Painting Tent.
Arts in Action: Local artists will offer demonstrations of their craft at Panoply’s Arts in Action tents, where festivalgoers can get a first-hand look at the process of book binding, paper flower making .and street art creations.
Panoply Poster Artist: Each year, Arts Huntsville commissions an artist to create an art piece that captures the spirit of the festival and the community. This year’s Panoply poster artist is Denise Onwere. While Denise is new to Panoply, she’s already well-known as an artist and arts educator at Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment. Denise grew up in Los Angeles, the daughter of Grammy-nominated jazz artist Jeff Clayton of The Clayton Brothers. As a child, Denise watched her father perform with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, BB King, and Madonna, and music served as an early inspiration in her self-taught career as a visual artist.
“We knew when we asked Denise to create our Panoply 2023 poster artwork that she would capture the energy and excitement of Huntsville’s arts, entertainment, and music scene,” said Arts Huntsville Executive Director Allison Dillon-Jauken. “Denise’s celebration of Panoply showcases iconic highlights of the festival’s setting in Big Spring Park. It celebrates the art, music, and fun that festivalgoers of all ages have experienced at Panoply for over four decades in a dynamic way.”
Onwere will sell her original paintings at Panoply Arts Festival, and festivalgoers can purchase merchandise featuring her artwork at the Panoply Stores. Arts Huntsville will also offer a limited number of signed posters for the public to purchase.
Hands-on Activities: Panoply’s STEAM Street, presented by Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Alabama, will celebrate the 41st anniversary of the Panoply Arts Festival with special activities:
Huntsville City Schools Magnet Programs ‘ Kinetic Kaleidoscopes!’ presented by Intrepid – Make a kaleidoscope and learn about light and how it travels.
Huntsville Ballet’s ‘Science of Soaring Sauté’ presented by KBR – Learn the physics of a Sauté through demonstrations, practicing jumps and creating a take-home Soaring Sauté Dancer.
Creative Launchpad’s “Circuit Board Dance Challenge” presented by Hexagon – Make a simple circuit and learn how electricity is conducted as festivalgoers make a DIY dance pad.
National Space Club’s “The Art of the Universe” STEAM Exhibit featuring recent images from Marshall Space Flight Center missions.
This year’s Creativity Corner presented by Virginia and Parker Griffith will offer Art Adventures for all to enjoy:
‘Block Printing’ presented by Parkway Place Mall – Learn a simple printing technique using foam, paper, and paint.
‘Mixed Media Monsters’ presented by Huntsville Hospital’s Women and Children – Festivalgoers will piece together a monster and create its world using a vast array of materials.
‘Pointillism’– Learn about pointillism and recreate works using this technique from the pioneers of Pointillism, Georges Seurat and Paul Signac.
‘Haiku Art’– Create a traditional Japanese haiku using nature as inspiration and add a unique illustration using watercolors.
Huntsville Symphony Orchestra Guilds ‘Discover Music – The Symphony Guild’s popular musical experience introduces young people to musical instruments.
Military Salute Night: The Panoply tradition of Military Salute Night, presented by Northrop Grumman, continues Friday, April 28. All active-duty military and Armed Forces reserves and their dependents are welcomed to the park for a free evening of entertainment. Military personnel will be asked to show their current military ID at the entrances.
Panoply Beer, Wine and Festival Food: Along with Panoply’s diverse array of art and music, festivalgoers can enjoy local tastes from 13 food trucks. This year, the popular Craft Beer and Wine Tent moves to a central location between the main park and Big Spring East and will feature craft beer from Yellowhammer and Straight to Ale.
Festival Seating and Fireworks: Enjoy Panoply’s music and performances with open-air seating. Festival patrons are encouraged to bring chairs and blankets to sit on as they enjoy the lineup of Panoply performers. Friday and Saturday nights will end with a stunning firework display presented by Delta Research.
Tickets: Arts Huntsville is once again offering a Panoply weekend pass available online in advance for $18. The pass provides an affordable way to enjoy Panoply’s diverse entertainment all weekend. Weekend passes are only available until 4 p.m. on Friday, April 28. Day passes are $10 if purchased in advance online until 4 p.m. on Friday, April 28. After that, day passes are available for purchase for $15 online and at the festival ticket booths, sponsored by Redstone Federal Credit Union. Children 12 and under are free of charge. Tickets are on sale now at artshuntsville.org. Festival entrances are presented by Huntsville Utilities and TVA.
Panoply 2023 hours by day: Friday, April 28, from 5-9:00 p.m.; Saturday, April 29, from 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. (Art Marketplace closes at 7:30 p.m.); and Sunday, April 30, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.