Delta Arts Festival returns, adds Delta Silver Screen Fest

by George Jared ([email protected]) 482 views 

The Delta Arts Festival, Arkansas’ largest multi-disciplinary arts festival, will be held in downtown Newport on Friday (June 4) and Saturday, according to Jon Chadwell, executive director of the Newport Economic Development Commission. The festival combines four free events into one – the Delta Visual Arts Show, the Delta Festival of Books, the Delta Musicians Showcase, and the Delta Silver Screen Film Fest.

“It’s great getting back to normal,” Chadwell said.

Two hundred visual artists will set up at the Delta Visual Arts Show in a five-block area of downtown selling their art with a large number of fine artists, craft artists, and functional artists. Thirty-five authors will participate in two different venues, with authors both selling books and conducting readings from their works on Friday and Saturday.

The Delta Musicians Showcase will feature 31 concert performances on five stages from mid-afternoon Friday through Saturday evening. The new Delta Silver Screen Film Fest will host 9 film screenings, with five short films being screened on Friday, a feature-length highlighted film on Friday night and 3 feature-length films on Saturday.

This is the 13th year the festival has been held. Chadwell said the festival usually lures around 3,000 people on average, but with the pandemic keeping people at home for the better part of a year, he expects that number to balloon.

Quantifying the economic impact the arts show has on the city and region is difficult, but adding an extra day, and holding it at a time when the weather is warmer helped, he said. It’s estimated that about $250,000 is spent on the artwork at the show based on the sales tax receipts that are submitted, he added.

The first year, the show had 17 artists and 180 visitors attended. Local leaders were pleased with the turnout. Little did they know the show would double the number of artists and visitors each year until the last couple of years, Chadwell said.

It costs about $17,000 to pay for the event, and at least 150 volunteers help with setup. Part of the cost is covered through an auction held each year in the fall. Artists don’t have to pay a fee to attend the event, but many donate pieces of art.

Newport and surrounding Jackson County have been fighting significant economic headwinds like many other communities in the rapidly depopulating Delta. Jackson County’s population dropped 6.6% from 2010 to 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The county has an estimated 17,000 residents.

The median household income in the county is $33,174 more than $10,000 below the state average and more than $20,000 below the national average. More than 22% of the population lives at or below the federal poverty line.