North Carolina’s longest-running street arts festival returns to downtown
By Brooke Spach
Started in 1974 as the Triangle Festival of Crafts, Durham Arts Council’s CenterFest is now a two-day affair that draws thousands of visitors to downtown’s City Center District. Unfortunately Durhamites haven’t had the opportunity to experience an in-person CenterFest since 2019 – the Durham Arts Council hosted a virtual event in 2020 and postponed CenterFest altogether in 2021 due to COVID-19.
Visitors to the 47th annual event on Sept. 17 and 18 can expect to peruse artworks that vary across mediums – from paintings and photographs to jewelry and woodworking – from close to 120 artists, including Durham’s own Andrew Lonon and Wendy Allen. DAC Director of Artist Services Margaret DeMott says the council strives to feature diverse works at all price points so that attendees can find gifts for friends and family, investment pieces and anything in between.
“People love to come downtown, and in 2019, we had [nearly] 35,000 visitors and participants,” says DAC Executive Director Sherry DeVries. “It’s important from an economic standpoint, helping to drive local business, and so we also focus on trying to direct traffic to our downtown businesses
and restaurants. … We want everyone to benefit from CenterFest.”
At CenterFest, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. If you’re looking to browse the artists’ booths without the crowds, Margaret and Sherry suggest coming early on Saturday morning. If you’d like to be immersed in the bustle and appreciate some good old-fashioned people-watching, they recommend coming around midafternoon when the festival is at its busiest. Live performances are slated throughout both days across five stages, and local nonprofits will be on hand to disseminate information about their organizations.
The kiddos can participate in activities with pottery wheels, building blocks and other crafts in the Creative Kids Zone, and there will be a dedicated stage for family-friendly performances. “We’re really encouraging people to be on-site this year,” Sherry says. “Coming out of the pandemic and being able to be in person again – this is really going to be a celebration.”
CenterFest 2022 By the Numbers:
2 days 5 stages
More than a dozen food trucks and classic festival food vendors
20-30 local nonprofits
120 artists including 24 confirmed Durham artists (at press time)