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ART BEAT: Suwanee holds third annual Arts in the Park

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Special Photo Fifty artists will display their work at Suwanee’s Arts in the Park on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The North Gwinnett Arts Association will welcome visitors to Suwanee's third annual Arts in the Park on Saturday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Held in Suwanee's beautiful Town Center Park, the event aspires to be something unique, a fine arts cousin to Suwanee Days with a personality of its own.

There will be more than 50 artists in booths, with many favorites returning from years past. Forty-eight of these artists will participate as juried entrants competing for $1,250 in cash awards.

Great emphasis is being placed on the entertainment this year, and there are some interesting groups being offered to festival-goers. Donna Wilkes, owner of Atlanta Gigs, has created an upscale circus atmosphere where entertainment will be featured all day.

Opera in the Park? Yes, indeed. Visitors will be treated to a musical program with the delectable name of "Operatizers." The Peach State Opera will offer mini-performances of favorite arias and other music from some of opera's most beautiful and well-loved works. The Peach State Opera is a touring opera company which combines beautiful voices and excellent musicianship with portable staging for easy travel. This is a very audience-friendly group, making opera accessible to audiences of all ages.

Another interesting performing group will be the OPA Circus. Jugglers, fire-eaters, an aerial acrobat, a ballet dancer, a stilt walker, unicycles and a humongous paper mache dodo bird will provide the audience with thrills, humor and wonder.

In addition to these unique groups, festival-goers can enjoy the beautiful music of Zephyr Instrumental, strolling magician Merritt Ambrose, Atlanta Harmony Celebration and guitarist/songwriter Sonny Cheatham.

Visitors can also have their photo taken as the "face" of painter Munch's "The Scream," a painting that is instantly recognizable. (Think Macaulay Culkin in the movie "Home Alone.") In addition, visitors can be a part of a group art project called the Pollack Painting Canvas.

The North Gwinnett Arts Association wants this festival to be a "serious" arts festival.

"We don't want to replicate Suwanee Day, and we don't want to be a craft festival," NGAA President Vickie Johnson said. "We want to be a serious arts festival like the ones at Piedmont Park, something that is really all about the arts.

"There's a lot of focus with this event on education. This is a great opportunity to bring your children and let them learn about the arts," Johnson said.

Many of the exhibiting artists will be demonstrating and creating their art on site, Artists will include all types of media: painters, digital artists, photographers, potters, woodworkers, metal workers, jewelers, fabric artists, writers, poets and more.

Town Center Park is located at Buford Highway and Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road. Limited parking is available at Town Center and along Main Street. Look for the yellow and black "Event Parking" signs, but get there early to enjoy all the day has to offer.

For more information about the North Gwinnett Arts Association, visit ngaa4arts.com.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.