Festival of Arts History

The Cumming First United Methodist Church Festival of Arts was founded in 2008 by John Hutchinson, Director of Music, Worship & Arts and Organist of Cumming FUMC.  John had a vision to utilize the church’s narthex (lobby) space as a gallery for local artists’ work.  The vision was inspired by a large art installation titled “Waters of Jordan” (shown to the right) created by artist and dedicated church member Kevin Whitley.  Kevin is Fine Arts Department Chair and Visual Art instructor at Forsyth Central High School and the painting consists of 30 4′ x 4′ panels.

With the mission to “feature student and professional visual artists in gallery settings and performance artists in concert and theater settings” the Festival of Arts undertook to bring art and artists to the Cumming/Forsyth Community.

Starting with a small list of local artists, word was sent out and 28 people entered the first show in 2008.  In addition, the Forsyth County Schools were invited to participate and nearly half sent work to that first show.  Two receptions were held and two concerts were performed.  The Festival of Arts was born.

To date, over 400 professional artists have participated and the Festival of Arts has now become a regional event.  Artists from Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Alabama regularly enter the professional division along with their Georgia colleagues with the annual number of entrants surpassing 200.  In addition, over 5000 student works have been shown and as of 2013 all 35 schools in the Forsyth County School System are participating on a regular basis.

As the Festival of Arts has grown, so have the concert and theater opportunities for the patrons.  Early on the Bach’s Lunch series was added in which professional performance groups perform 30 minute concerts at Noon each weekday.  Primary concerts and performances have grown to include internationally renowned artists in performance.  The Festival of Arts now partners annually with the North Georgia Symphony Orchestra to provide the full orchestral experience as the closing program.

Opportunities for young people have expanded rapidly with the addition of the Rising Stars Concert and Competition which features classically trained young musicians high school age and younger, the ‘mIfilm’ Student Film Festival featuring student made films from area high schools, and the Poetry & Art book which is a published book featuring poetry and visual art submitted by area school students.

The Festival of Arts is the first organization to partner to receive partial annual funding from the Forsyth County Arts Alliance; a philanthropic organization dedicated to promoting the arts in Cumming/Forsyth community and also relies heavily on the generosity of the corporate, philanthropic and individual patrons who make the Festival the unparalleled success that it is.

Opportunities are unlimited as the Festival of Arts continues to move forward in new and creative ways to celebrate the arts and artists who so deeply enrich the lives of all of us.

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Waters of Jordan

“Waters of Jordan” by Kevin Whitley

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