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The Daily Tar Heel

April Means Art For Town-Gown Tours, Festivals

The third annual "April Arts Downtown" will include a literary festival, a garden tour, the play "Our Town" and the Apple Chill Fair.

A monthlong celebration of local art, April Arts Downtown is sponsored by the Chapel Hill Downtown Commission, Arts Carolina and local vendors. This year will mark the event's third anniversary.

"Spring is just such a big time, and there's so much going on in the arts," said Amy Brannock, director of Arts Carolina.

As a coordinator for the festival, Brannock said that besides introducing residents to the different arts in Chapel Hill, another benefit of the event is that it brings Chapel Hill together with UNC.

"It's a really good way for the University and downtown to work together and make sure our boundaries are very porous," Brannock said.

"We want people from the town to feel comfortable attending events at the University."

So far, the plan appears to be working. In the last two years, overall participation in the event has grown, and the trend is expected to continue.

The University is hosting the N.C. Literary Festival in conjunction with April Arts Downtown, which may result in an influx of attendees.

The Chapel Hill Spring Garden Tour will be a featured part of the festival.

Beverly Carr, ticket chairwoman for the tour, said she is hoping to pull in some people from the N.C. Literary Festival to her organization's events on April 6 and 7.

"The tour will go through the Greenwood neighborhood, which has a direct connection to some well-known authors like Paul Green and Bill Prince," Carr said.

Dana McMahan opened The Laughing Turtle, a whimsical home and gift shop, in September.

She said she is also expecting to attract some special readers -- kids.

The store will be hosting "Banjo Book Days" with illustrator Trip Park starting April 6.

"We wanted to provide great things for kids to do on Franklin Street (because) we get a lot of kids in here," McMahan said.

The Arts Festival has a wide variety of events to offer for bookworms and art afficionados alike. From PlayMakers Repertory Company's presentation of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" to the 30th annual Apple Chill Fair, visitors will have more than 35 events to choose from throughout the month.

With so many activities occurring as part of the growing interest in April Arts Downtown, Missy Julian-Fox, the owner of Alexander Julian's on Franklin Street, said she isn't surprised that more vendors are trying to get involved this year.

"Organizations and businesses are really looking to see what they can offer," Fox said.

In making her own contribution to this year's festival, Fox said she has invited a special guest.

"In choosing an artist to highlight, we chose our very own family artist, which is (designer) Alexander Julian, and he will be unveiling a new line of clothing," she said.

Robert Humphreys, the executive director of the Downtown Commission, said the event will run smoothly thanks to the cooperative efforts of all the participants in this year's festival.

"It's just a great cooperation between the town and gown, if you will," Humphreys said.

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For more information about April Arts Downtown, contact the Chapel Hill Downtown Commission at 929-9700.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at