“This is my first festival event at Port Warwick,” says Jackie Shapiro, executive director of the Port Warwick Foundation. New to her job (November 2018), she is determined to make the event better than ever. The juried show has more than 80 artists, half of whom have exhibited before. There is a careful application and selection process. “The artists are expected to bring the freshest and most exciting pieces from their bodies of work,” adds Shapiro. She “scouts” other festivals and art shows, looking for prospective entrants.
The artists come from all over the East Coast, from Florida to New York. There are a few from the Midwest and one from Colorado. In addition to paintings, there will be ceramics, sculpture, fiber, glass, jewelry, metal, photography, mixed media and wood. The largest pieces are in sculpture: one is 96 inches tall by Domenico Belli, a new exhibitor from Pennsylvania, and another is 62 inches tall by Jimmy Houston of Prospect, Virginia.
This is the 15th year for the festival. It is free and open to the public. The dates are October 12 – 13: Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event is held rain or shine. The artists are in tents and prepared. “We never cancel,” adds Shapiro. “But we do pamper our artists. They love our show.”
There are complimentary lunches on both days, a VIP/artist party on Saturday night and a Champagne Awards Breakfast on Sunday morning. There are also “booth sitters” so artists can take a break. “We offer ‘southern hospitality,’ which includes lots of helpers and volunteers,” says Shapiro. There are people to assist with unloading, setup and loading. The judge (from a local museum) speaks with every artist. Cash awards (14) include Best in Show, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, an Award of Excellence in each media and an Award of Honor.
New this year is a partnering with Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center, which includes a special exhibit of six artists who display at Downing-Gross. One of the regular returning artists in the show is sponsoring three cash awards for the Downing-Gross artists. Also new is an “Emerging Artists Tent,” which will showcase artwork of talented local high school students.
The Port Warwick Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization and relies on many generous sponsors. Major sponsors include the Port Warwick Conservancy and Virginia Health Services, which has offices off Styron Square.
In addition to the artwork exhibits, there will be entertainment. Several popular local bands will perform. The music schedule will be available online to allow attendees the opportunity to schedule a visit when their favorite bands are playing. There will be food trucks, including NOSH MMB, The Hungry Pug and Scratch Bakery, which has a shop on Styron Square. A Beer and Wine Garden will be located next to the bandstand area.
Port Warwick’s unique boutiques and restaurants will be open. The festival has drawn more than 18,000 people; art sales have totaled more than $1 million since its inception. There are family art activities and art demonstrations. Special events are set up for children. “There will be plenty of parking,” says Shapiro. “Sentara has graciously made its lots available.”
The festival is a favorite with artists. Some come year after year. Shapiro names a few long-time supporters: Janey Harrington, artist (fiber); local artist Alekdsandr Maryaskin; Jason McLeod; and Ed Obermeyer, photography and painting.
Shapiro doesn’t “work” the entire weekend. “I can spend some time walking around and enjoying the show. I have a committee of volunteers that I can rely on,” she says.
Shapiro was born in Massachusetts and lived in Florida, where she earned a degree in speech pathology from the University of Florida. She has lived in Virginia since 1985. Her children were born here. From 2005 to 2010 she owned a pilates studio in Port Warwick. She has worked for Newport News Parks and Recreation as a recreational specialist.
Shapiro enjoys cycling with a group. Other hobbies include reading and cooking. “I want a real book though,” she adds. “I watch the Food Channel and try anything that looks good.” Travel is frequently a family activity. “The whole crew (six of us) went to Spain when my daughter was studying there. We usually take two trips a year. An anniversary trip to Sedona, Arizona, was special. In the plans is a family trip to Alaska.”
Shapiro is looking forward to the upcoming festival and invites everyone to come and see what the excitement is all about.
TO THE POINT:
15th Annual Port Warwick Art and Sculpture Festival
Address: 191 Walt Whitman Ave., Newport News VA 23606
Contact: Jackie Shapiro, executive director, Port Warwick Foundation