Juniata block party aims to showcase local musicians, artists

Altoona native Rue Moyer spent eight years in China, living in Shenzhen, a city of 10 million.

During his time there, Moyer founded a production company for musical events, bringing his small-town feel for personal connections to a big city, where the pervading energy, excitement and creativity made it easy to recruit people to his cause.

He’s living here again, an employee of the new ArtsAltoona initiative, and he’s hoping for a dynamic that is exactly the opposite of the one that worked for him in China when ArtsAltoona hosts a “beautification and block party” on April 28 on the main drag in Juniata.

In Shenzhen, Moyer tried to bring a sense of intimacy and connection that was missing there.

For the North Fourth Avenue block party, he’ll try to develop the kind of stimulus for creativity typical of a big city that is generally missing here — an absence felt most acutely by musicians and artists who haven’t yet made their public mark.

“There aren’t a lot of opportunities or venues for emerging artists in Altoona,” Moyer said.

“If you’re not a musician that is playing classic rock or country music, it’s difficult to find a venue for a paid performance,” Moyer said. “(Likewise,) if you’re not an artist that is already developed, it’s hard to find a place to get exposure.”

At the block party, the stimulus will be in the form of an easy “platform” for performance, according to Moyer.

For musicians, there will be three stages where approximately 27 mostly local groups will perform, coupled with an invitation for other musicians to “busk” on the sidewalks and parking lots of Juniata.

For visual artists, there will be an invitation to set up their easels to draw or paint, a wooden fence with panels waiting to be filled in by children and a paint-by-numbers mural laid out by local artist Pam Snyder that anyone can work on.

Some local musicians and visual artists may be excited at the prospect of a performance opportunity and others may be shy and reluctant, Moyer said.

He encouraged the shy ones to come out anyway, if only to observe.

Even if they don’t bring the instruments of their vocation with them, they may be inspired enough to borrow from those who are performing and thus take part themselves, he said.

Moyer hopes the event not only encourages un­proven musicians and artists, but also encourages those with the wherewithal to give those artists additional platforms for performances to do that, he said.

In addition to promoting art, the event is intended to beautify Juniata’s downtown, according to Moyer and an ArtsAltoona news release.

Those in attendance will sweep the sidewalks, plant flowers in planters along those sidewalks, clean the lampposts and trash cans — and work on the mural and fence, Moyer said.

The sophomore class of Sheetz Fellows will participate in the event, according to the news release.

“It’s a new type of event,” Moyer said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.