Art is the heart of Farmville’s festival

Published 5:56 pm Thursday, May 5, 2016

The 2016 Heart of Virginia Festival set for this weekend is getting back to its roots in the Outdoor Art Festival.

“It all started one cold windy day in the parking lot behind the Winn Dixie store,” Martha Pennington Louis and Beverly Bass Hines wrote on the festival’s 30th anniversary in 2004.

Louis’ idea was to make fine arts available to the Farmville community. That first parking lot exhibit included 95 artists and craftsmen. The following year the art show moved to the Five County Fairgrounds where more people were introduced to quality artwork. The Central Chapter of the Virginia Museum sponsored the event, and in 1974 the Outdoor Arts Festival, now associated with the Heart of Virginia Festival, was born.

The third year the festival moved to Longwood College (now Longwood University), and the festival branched out to include live music, food and booths as eclectic as the individuals and civic clubs that sponsor them.

While the festival was expanding, however, the number of participating artists was dwindling.

Concerned over the number of artists at last year’s festival, Louis decided to come out of retirement.

“I did the festival art show for 20 years — from 1974 to 1994,” she said. “I was concerned, so I came back.”

For this year’s event Louis has lined up 45 artists to display their work.

“It will be a judged show,” Louis said. “We have a judge and awards for first, second and third places, and Central Virginia Arts will provide a $300 prize for best in show.”

The best prize, Louis believes, would be a renewed interest in the art show.

Mother’s Day, Louis added, is the day after the festival.

“It all started with the fine arts show,” Louis said. “What better place to shop than a fine arts show.”

“Art,” after all, is what put the “he-art” in Farmville’s favorite festival.

Marge Swayne is the lifestyles editor for The Farmville Herald. Her email address is