RACA Executive Director Ali Booker

RACA Executive Director Ali Booker said she hopes the community will come out Saturday to enjoy the spring weather at the Ellen Axson Wilson ArtsFest while supporting local arts and downtown businesses.

Rome Area Council for the Arts is hosting its annual Ellen Axson Wilson ArtsFest on Saturday.

RACA Executive Director Ali Booker said she hopes the community will take this opportunity to get out to Broad Street and enjoy the spring weather while supporting local arts and downtown businesses.

“Since our events will be outside, it is easy to maintain social distancing for anyone who may have concerns,” she said.

The festival, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is held in conjunction with the Rome Downtown Development Authority.

“Our Downtown Development Authority is doing a lot of the heavy lifting for this event,” Booker said. “They do an amazing job and are always so wonderful to partner with. They really champion Rome’s downtown and help keep businesses relevant and create projects that draw people to the area.”

In the past few years RACA has streamlined its programming into more fundraising events in an effort to bring more awareness to local art and artists.

“We stopped programming because we did not want to take away from any local schools or organizations that were doing their own thing. Our basic goal right now is just to support this community and artists in this community,” Booker said.

This year RACA is doing something a little different with its ArtsFest.

“We are pairing local artists with different businesses this year,” Booker said.

Right now RACA has about 20 artists signed up for the event.

“There will be a variety of artists in attendance — painters, potters, photographers. We have a diverse group,” she added.

Artwork will be on sale and the community will get to see artists working on new pieces as well.

There will be several bands and musicians positioned throughout downtown, as well as food vendors, and some of the downtown restaurants will be hosting special events.

Booker said she is especially excited about this year’s ArtsFest because it will be a reunion of sorts.

“Because of the pandemic, we’ve had to cancel several events and we haven’t been able to engage with our artists and our supporters in person. This will be a great way to get back out and actually see one another again,” she said.

This year’s ArtsFest will feature a lot of work that’s been completed during lockdown.

“We’re just so thrilled that artists can get back out and show what they’ve been working on. Rome is such an artist hub and there are so many talented people here,” Booker added.

Like so many other businesses and organizations, the pandemic took a toll on RACA’s efforts.

Booker said they were worried they weren’t going to have the money needed to support their community partners.

RACA held a membership drive at the beginning of this year and focused on why the arts are so relevant and why it’s so important to keep the community engaged.

“Our community members have been absolutely amazing,” Booker said. “We are so thankful and so blessed by all that they do for us. Their support has been wonderful.”

RACA named this event after President Woodrow Wilson’s wife, Ellen Axson Wilson, who was from Rome and is buried at Myrtle Hill Cemetery.

The former first lady was an arts advocate as well as a painter.

Her statue, which stands near the Town Green at the east end of the Chief John Ross Memorial Bridge, is a project RACA completed in 2015 as a tribute to her love and support of the arts. It was designed by Arizona artist Stephanie Hunter.

“It’s a really neat connection to our community to have a former first lady from here who was also very involved in the arts,” Booker said.

The Third Street and Fourth Avenue parking decks will have free parking for the festival.

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