Cross cultural extravaganza

Wona Womalan, a West African drum and dance ensemble, comes to the stage on May 3.

Nine days, 43 venues, all kinds of art. It’s the 33rd North Charleston Arts Festival, the biggest one yet, according to organizers.

“We had to add eight pages to our program book this year,” said Ann Simmons, arts coordinator for the city. “There is a lot of stuff going on.”

The festival is meant to provide numerous free and ticketed events that appeal to a wide array of patrons and that shine a light on local artists.

It’s centered at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center and Exhibit Hall, which hosts the main events. It also stretches throughout the city.

Free visual art installations can be found at City Hall and Riverfront Park; the Jazz Artists of Charleston series will be held at the American La-France Fire Museum and Educational Center; a children’s puppet show will be presented at the Otranto Road Regional Library; The Sparrow, a bar on East Montague Street, will host a stand-up comedy show with Neil Bansil; St. Thomas Episcopal Church will present a flute and guitar concert; and Midtown Productions will stage “Always ... Patsy Cline” at Duvall Catering on Azalea Drive.

And that’s just the tip of a very large iceberg.

Steve Hazard, a North Charleston-based glass and metal artist, will show his work and the work of artists his gallery represents in a show called “An Urban Art Kaleidoscope” at City Hall. It’s one of 19 visual art exhibitions and installations this year.

Others include photographs by Sandy Logan that concentrate on change in North Charleston; the annual outdoor sculpture competition and display in Riverfront Park; cut paper works by Sherill Anne Gross; and the ninth annual African-American Fiber Art Exhibition featuring pieces inspired by the work of Maya Angelou.

Among the several outdoor events is Latin Night on May 2 in Riverfront Park, a cultural celebration that includes dance, drink and food. The centerpiece of Latin Night is a performance by the Charleston Latin Jazz Collective, a seven-piece band led by David Heywood.

The band’s conga player Gina Castillo said he loves to play in this group.

“It’s really high-level Latin jazz,” he said. Some of the musicians teach college students and all are among the most proficient players in town. “Heywood does all the arrangements. It’s a big challenge to play with this band.”

It got its start in the mid-2000s playing salsa music, then regrouped in 2010 when Castillo came to town, he said. After a while, the band needed another reshuffling, and in 2012 it was rechristened the Charleston Latin Jazz Collective. It lives by its name, Castillo said, for all the players make essential contributions.

Plenty more jazz is on tap for the festival. Jazz Artists of Charleston has organized a three-night series to be presented at the American LaFrance Fire Museum and Educational Center.

On May 6, Steve Berry and the Jazz Factory will perform; the Mark Sterbank Ensemble takes the stage May 7; and the series closes May 8 with vocalist Leah Suarez and pianist Gerald Gregory.

Sterbank said he will present original music, some of it recently appearing on his CD “Dayspring.”

“I may also mix in a standard or two,” he said. The quintet includes Charlton Singleton on trumpet, Demetrius Doctor on piano, Jeremy Wolf on bass and Ron Wiltrout on drums.

“It is great to have another opportunity to perform in North Charleston,” Sterbank said. “The city has been a longtime supporter and presenter of the arts with all the events at the PAC and Coliseum. I was last there in February with the Darius Rucker Big Band and what a great event that was. I also performed with the North Charleston Pops Orchestra there last year when George Benson came to town and with the Charlton Singleton Quintet for the Lowcountry Jazz Festival opening up for Joe Sample the year before that.”

The saxophone player, who teaches at Charleston Southern University, said he welcomes this opportunity to play in a new North Charleston venue.

“I think the future of live music in North Charleston is a vibrant and enduring,” he said.

Organizers have made a special effort to appeal to a broad constituency, including families and children. Events geared for young audiences include a fashion show, storytelling, puppet shows, theater presentations, a high school improv tournament, a magic show and a folk and soul concert for youth.

On May 2, St. Peter’s AME Church, located at 4650 Sanders St., will host the 60-member Lowcountry Voices choir in a program called “Singing the Colors of Jonathan Green,” directed by Nathan L. Nelson. Lowcountry Voices will perform pieces that align with Green’s arresting images, including hymns, spirituals, traditional gospel songs and excerpts from “Porgy and Bess.” Green will be on hand to speak briefly about his work.

Neil Bansil and friends Jeremy McLellan, Jason Groce, Mike Brocki and Andy Rider will be at The Sparrow the evening of May 6 for a comedy show that coincides with the Olde Village Art Walk along East Montague Street.

The Art Pot, an Hispanic Theater group organized by Maribel Acosta, will offer a repeat performance of Acosta’s Spanish-language “Shall We Plough Through the Sea?” The show will take place May 8 at Sterett Hall on the old Navy base.

The Taking Flight Comic Book Show at The Sparrow on May 9 includes special guests and comic artists Tim Showers, Leigh Wells and Sandy Jarrell. (Jarrell drew Batman in 1966.)

Mayor Keith Summey said the festival is an integral part of city life.

“I have seen the arts festival grow and evolve over the years,” Summey said. “The festival has always been an inclusive celebration of the creative process and it has been good to see the continued development of programs that draw new participants to seasoned patrons.”

Much more is on tap, from ukulele music to horror films at Park Circle. The family-friendly Grand Finale on May 9 in Riverfront Park includes performances by student musicians, a poetry slam, live music and fireworks.

Go to, or pick up a program at North Charleston City Hall, for a full event listing and details about start times and venues.

Reach Adam Parker at 937-5902. Follow him at