On a sunny August day, a community of friends and neighbors gathered to remember a lost friend with celebration and art. The Jonny Z fest, in its 3rd year, is part block party, part street festival that inhabits a quiet corner of the fan between shields market and Joe’s Inn.
Michael Guedri is the Volunteer and Program coordinator for Art 180, the group that organized the event. In a recent interview WRIR’s Rebecca Farris he explained the concept of the festival.
“Jonny Z was a good friend of mine and many. Who passed away about 4 years ago. He was an integral part in the local music scene and the community. He was an activist in Food Not Bombs, among many other things. He inspired a large group of people to participate in their community, me being one of them. And we want to honor his legacy with this festival every year.”
And honor they did. About 200 folks show up to see the live music, arts and crafts, and areas for children to play. Many art groups and vendors came out to show their support.
Taylor Dawkins was one of them. A Board Director for Studio 23, a not-for-profit print shop in RVA, she manned a paint-your-own-t-shirt booth.
“We are doing on site screen printing for t-shirts. You can buy a t-shirt for a donation of 5$. WE have screens and different stamps and you can decorate your own shirt.”
Dawkins could see how her booth promoted community involvement
“Its very DIY. It’s very on site interaction. I think its bringing a lot of kids out and getting them to flow creatively and to do something at a street fair they might not get a chance to otherwise.”
Moving from New York City a few years ago, Dawkins had been to her share of street festivals, but she saw something different in the Jonny Z fest.
“I like it a lot more. It’s less overwhelming. There’s more interaction with individuals. In some ways, it’s a lot better.”
Josh small, musician and performer, came out to play for the crowd. He has played the last 2 Jonny Z fests, and felt such a connection to the event, he had no problem agreeing to play again.
“It’s the kind of thing were everybody you know and love is gonna be there, so it’s the best kind of show to play.”
Mim Golub Scalin, a crafts person, had her booth of home sewn hand bags and purses. Every aspect of the event delighted her.
“It’s confined to this one block which makes it very convenient, but its got the same things. Its got wonderful bands playing, all these crafts going on that people can participate in and a moon bounce for the kids. And its got a shady side and a not-so-shady side.”
She also enjoyed the chance to meet with local artists and other crafts people, not to mention her staunch support of Art 180’s mission.
“And I’ve gotten to meet people that I didn’t know, I knew their work, and I purchased things from them at other events, and then they are right here! And I go ‘OH HI! I know your work, oh hi I know your work,’ or them saying ‘what’s your name? Oh I know you!’ so that feels really good too. It’s wonderful. Community, community, community! And we all love Art 180 and the fact – their motto – kids and art – and getting to participate in that. Thinking I can write, I can make art, I can do this. For me, that’s the best.”
Matt Lively, who Art 180 proclaimed Squiggle Champion of the world, helmed one of the more unique booths. His talent is not to be understated.
“You draw a squiggle for me, a squiggle is just a wavy or jagged line, it can be pretty complex. Then you tell me what to turn that squiggle into. And I will turn your squiggle into whatever you want me to do. It can be anything that exists on the planet or doesn’t exists on the planet.”
Lively has demonstrated his talent at several Art 180 events. The organization has plans for his amassed work; something he thinks Jonny Z would appreciate.
“They are gonna print the best 100 and make them into books and then sell the books to benefit art 180. And it seemed like a fun activity that he would dig.”
Scalin realizes the importance of the event outside an average street festival.
“Its not just the craft making, it the fact that I can participate and give some money to art 180. And be a part of this festival. I think its wonderful, it brings the neighbor hood out. So many young people here, I’m loving the fact there are so many young people here. But its really important to commemorate Jonny Zs life.”
You can find out more info about Art 180’s and their upcoming events at www.art180.com