Cultural kickoff: Downtown event serves up arts, entertainment

Altoona’s arts organizations have long remained committed to downtown, and a new event scheduled for Thursday recognizes that.

Arts on the Avenues will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. – several events also run later – rain or shine, and will feature a variety of performing and visual arts, as well as open house events that will allow different arts organizations to showcase their work.

Most activities are free.

“The event was developed as a way to recognize the downtown Altoona arts community for its long-standing, but under-appreciated, commitment to Altoona’s downtown and to help the various arts organizations kick off the cultural arts season,” said Judy Coutts with the Downtown Altoona Business Community. “We also want to encourage the community to see downtown in a new way, to realize that new and long-established businesses are here, and that downtown is a fun place to be.”

A harpist, a pianist, dancers and others will entertain, and attendees can get a close-up look at how a community theater prepares for an opening-night performance.

The Mishler Theatre, 1208 12th Ave., will open at 5 p.m. to show how it does set and sound checks prior to a performance. Meanwhile, pianist Annette Nelson, the music director at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and a piano teacher, will be at the theater’s Spiritz Bar entertaining.

The opening performance of Altoona Community Theatre’s production of “You Can’t Take It With You” begins at 7:30 p.m. in the theater.

Next door, at the Blair County Arts Foundation, an exhibit of Sue Severson’s artwork will be on display from 5 to 7 p.m. Severson, a New York City native who made Blair County her home in 1998, has exhibited in a number of New York galleries and has been active in this region’s art scene. She will be inducted into the Blair County Arts Hall of Fame next month.

One block over, the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Arts, 1210 11th Ave., will offer several opportunities, including showcasing its current “Artists in our Midst” exhibition. This annual show celebrates the work of local and regional artists and, this year, features more than 60 works in a wide variety of media, said coordinator Barbara Hollander.

SAMA also will host a wine and glass-painting class by education coordinator Jessica Campbell, in which participants will take home two wine glasses featuring their own artistic designs and partake of specialty wine.

The class is $25, restricted to ages 21 and older and requires reservations at 946-4464.

SAMA also will be the starting point of a streetlight tour of downtown’s public art, beginning at 7:30 p.m. and guided by Pam Snyder-Etters, executive director of the Altoona Symphony Orchestra.

Next door to SAMA, at the Columns, the Allegheny Ballet Company and the Altoona Area High School String Ensemble will perform from 5 to 7 p.m.

The ASO String Quartet will be set up at Rossman Park, 11th Avenue and 12th Street, for shows at 5:10 p.m. and 6:40 p.m., while the Blair Concert Chorale will be performing at Fisher Park, located on 11th Avenue between 13th and 14th streets, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Harpist Rachel Wachter of Altoona will perform in front of Resilience Tattoo, 1300 11th Ave. She performs at weddings, churches, special events and fundraisers and has been playing the harp for 25 years, since she was 5 years old.

Diversity Salon, 1306 11th Ave., will host a “We Are The World” fashion show at 6 p.m.

The Heritage Plaza gazebo, at the corner of 11th Avenue and 14th Street, is the venue for performances by the Allegheny Ukulele Kollective at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.

Texas Hot Dogs, 1122 12th Ave., and Bill Sell’s Bold, 1413 11th Ave., will be open during the evening hours with their respective cuisines.

Public restrooms at four venues will be available for patrons, and public parking lots and garages will be open for free.

Mirror Staff Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.