The North Charleston Arts Festival, which gets underway Friday and runs through May 10, is chock-full of interesting events, many free, including an out-of-the-ordinary stage adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's beloved "The Little Prince."

If you go

North Charleston Arts Festival

What: The 32 annual festival features nine days of programming throughout North Charleston and surrounding area.

WHEN: May 2-10

WHERE: Various venues, but centered at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center and Convention Center, 5001 Coliseum Drive.

COST: Most are free; some charge admission starting at $5


'Espacio Hispanico'

What: This Latino community event for the whole family features a Spanish-language play written and directed by Cuban artist Maribel Acosta. Inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupery's novel, "The Little Prince," the story is a call to awareness of the human essence, innocence and friendship.

WHEN: 6 p.m. May 9

WHERE: Sterett Hall Auditorium, 1530 7th St., North Charleston (on the former Charleston Naval Base)

COST: Free


Arts Festival's Visual Art Exhibitions

What: "Through the Lens," a group photography show, is at 10 Storehouse Row, 2120 Noisette Blvd. "Lowcountry Souree," featuring works by Amiri Gueka Farris (May 2-31), winner of the 2014 festival design competition and producer of the festival poster art, is at the Convention Center, along with the Tri-County Youth Arts Exhibition (May 3-4). The Youth Photography Exhibition (May 2-10) is at the North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum and Educational Center, 4975 Centre Pointe Drive.

WHEN: April 30-June 20

WHERE: North Charleston City Hall, 2500 City Hall Lane

COST: Free


The play, by actor-artist Maribel Acosta, is called "Espacio Hispanico" ("Hispanic Place") and will be presented in Spanish. This is the first time the city has included a Spanish-language event in its festival, according to organizer Ann Simmons.

The play, a free stand-alone event schedule for 6 p.m. May 9 at Sterett Hall, is meant to introduce the local Hispanic community to the famous fable and to convey its humanistic message, Acosta said.

"What it says is valid any time, and any place," she said, speaking Spanish that was translated by her friend and community outreach volunteer Lydia Cotton. "It is a look at what is really important, not just what you possess."

It's about what it means to be human, to experience feelings, to be concerned about others for who they are and not for their status, Acosta said.

The play also is part of North Charleston's ongoing outreach efforts, Simmons and Cotton said.

Acosta isn't only directing her adaptation of "The Little Prince" during the festival. She is one of several women exhibiting paintings, sculptures and prints as part of the festival's visual arts component.

Four women are included in the festival this year, not because they are women, but because their applications submitted to the Cultural Arts office were considered the most worthy, Simmons said.

Visual art exhibitions are just one aspect of the multi-faceted festival, which showcases dance, music, theater, literary arts, special outdoor events and more.

The festival began in 1982 at Park Circle as a one-day community celebration. It grew over the years and now is based at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center and Charleston Area Convention Center, though it employs a variety of venues throughout the city.

Its purpose it to increase awareness of the arts in the community, to make the arts as accessible as possible and to foster tourism, according to the city's Cultural Arts Department.

The heart of the festival occurs Saturday and Sunday with "Main Event" performances in the PAC and Convention Center and on the Courtyard Stage.

Performances will be offered by a variety of dance troupes, drum ensembles, improv comedy teams, poetry reciters and storytellers, singers and jazz and rock bands.

For a complete listing of "Main Event" performances, go to

Featured women

Lillian Trettin's work - silkscreen and collagraph prints, collage, multimedia portraits - will be on display on the third floor of North Charleston City Hall, 2500 City Hall Lane. Her exhibit is called "Becoming Southern Steampunk," and it presents a narrative "inspired by Southern literature and lore shaped by memories of growing up in Appalachia," according to the Cultural Arts Department.

The show's artworks are an expression of personal transformation and of wrestling with one's heritage. In the work, Trettin presents an alter-ego, Jean, who is a hybrid woman/moonshine still. The artist will bring a mobile printing press to the reception. (Concurrent receptions for all of the City Hall artists are scheduled for 6-8 p.m. May 8.)

The watercolors of Charlynn M. Knight, the city's artist in residence, will be on display on the second floor of City Hall in another solo show. Knight's work features Lowcountry landscapes that "depict the beauty of everyday" and glow with a colorful palette.

Two more artists will help transform City Hall into an art gallery.

Gingi Martin's exhibit "Landscapes of Mozart and Beethoven" and Acosta's show "Pieces" also will be mounted on the third floor.

Martin works in oil and makes sculptures using found objects, she said. Raised in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania, she settled in rural Pineville.

Martin always has had a great passion for classical music; her MFA thesis (22 prints, paintings and sculptures) was on Beethoven and his deafness.

"I arrived here with this love; I never knew what to do with that passion," she said. She plays piano and studies composers, but it took her a while to combine her love for music and her artistic inclinations.

A January exhibit in the North Charleston City Gallery led to the current show. The Beethoven series includes paintings of the composer's various residences, with scenes of the country (where he wrote a lot of his music) superimposed, Martin said.

Mozart also is represented in the show, via the Nannerl Notenbuch (Nannerl's music book, in which Leopold Mozart wrote exercises for his daughter, and in which one finds Wolgang's earliest compositions) and through representations of his opera characters.

Acosta's pictures, instead, are informed by her years in Havana, Cuba, where she graduated with an art degree then studied theater, and her subsequent time in Ecuador, where she taught art and theater in a private International School.

She said she is slowly emerging from her domesticated habits to present her art publicly. For years, she has focused on motherhood, she said. Acosta has two children, 12 and 10, and is married to percussionist Gino Castillo.

Her visual artwork is introspective, with hints of psychological brooding, not unlike the paintings of Frida Kahlo. She said she prints on canvas by hand, using a spoon and a piece of wood, a manual technique she learned in Cuba. This gives her more contact with the work and a greater sense of control.

"I'm happy with my spoon," she said.

Dramatic art

Acosta is presenting pieces that were part of a solo show at The 827 Annex in West Ashley last September, but she's working on a new series called "Wings and Masks." Two works from the series could be ready soon, she said.

She also is working on a new play called "One Voice." It's a metaphor for political and social rights and the value of community, she said. Three characters - one black, one white, one Hispanic - converge on a big tree and assert their rights to the place. It takes a trip into the past for them to discover an answer to the dilemma.

Her interest in the theater began when she was 8 years old and walking along the street in Havana with her grandmother.

"What's that place," she wanted to know. "I like the smell, I want to go in."

Sitting in the seat, unsure of what was happening, the young Acosta cried with joy; she had found a part of herself.

"I knew I wanted to come often," she said. "It was something magic for me."

Her play "Hispanic Place" is a way to share her experiences and concerns with other Spanish-speaking residents of the Charleston area.

Cotton said that many Latinos living in the Lowcountry remain suspicious of authority and concerned about their future in the U.S., even as acute fears has subsided in recent years. Now the goal is to bring the community together and celebrate its cultural inheritance.