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Release Date: October 16,2015

Peninsula-area artists of all kinds on display at first CAN festival in Hampton

Peninsula-area artists of all kinds on display at first CAN festival in Hampton

Andrea Castillo
Peninsula-area artists of all kinds on display at first-ever festival

To find world-class art, Asa Jackson believes one needs to look no further than right at home.

On Saturday, he hopes to showcase the talents of some of those Hampton Roads artists in his inaugural Contemporary Arts & Networking (CAN) Festival at Mill Point Park in Hampton.

"A lot of people have left Virginia to seek opportunity, whether it be going to New York or L.A. or some other big metropolitan area, and we want to reverse that kind of attitude and show people you can thrive as an artist here," said Jackson, a Newport News resident who left his native Hampton Roads for a time to study at Boston University and also lived in New York. "Part of it just takes awareness."

The event, initially envisioned as a block party, will include performances by several dance companies, music from acts performing R&B, jazz, and hip-hop, as well as a DJ, movable murals that will be painted at the festival and T-shirt screen printing. There also will be face painting for children.

Hampton Boyer, a co-organizer of the event who is a graphic designer, said they wanted to showcase several types of art at the event.

"If you want it to be a promotion of the arts, you want to include as much of that as possible," he said. "We're trying to create that experience for the arts in the 757 area code and not just focus on one aspect."

The CAN Festival is not Jackson's first effort in trying to get more local artists in the spotlight.

He started the 670 Gallery at the Peninsula Town Center in Hampton in November.

Beyond traditional painting displays, the gallery has hosted poetry readings and other live performances, tai chi demonstrations and sculpture and photo exhibits, Jackson said.

Jackson, a painter who has dabbled in sculpture and fashion, hopes the event will bring together artists and other people in the community.

"With the network in place we thought it important for business owners and city people, local entrepreneurs, artists, creatives to really come together in one place," he said. "A painter could meet somebody who owns a bank and a musician could meet somebody who owns a concert hall and be that spark for innovation and also connectivity."

Nalan Smartt, a photographer and freelance creative director who is helping put the event together, thinks that building an arts scene on the Peninsula can bring people together, especially as people from different places bringing different perspectives become a part of the community.

"To showcase the emerging talent we have now, it can help create an identity for a lot of the Hampton Roads community, not just the people that live here but even people who are new to the area as well," he said.

Jackson also is hoping to build on the momentum of opportunities for artists that are emerging in places like Norfolk and Virginia Beach as well. He and Boyer have lent their talents to murals popping up in Norfolk's emerging arts district that will be celebrating with the NEON Festival this week.

"We kind of wanted to follow suit here on the Peninsula, be another outlet," Jackson said.

Boyer said he's glad to be part of an event that offers something different from other festivals in the area.

"It feels good to actually make something for the people," Boyer said. "It's something I'm looking forward to. With this planning and everything, probably another year would go by where artists don't get a chance to shine."

Castillo can be reached by phone at 757-247-4635.

Want to go?

What: Free CAN (Contemporary Arts & Networking) Festival.

When: 1-8 p.m., Saturday.

Where: Mill Point Park, 100 Eaton St., Hampton.