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The Virginia Arts Festival celebrates its 25th Anniversary in 2022. The largest and most prestigious international performing arts organization in southeastern Virginia, Virginia Arts Festival has transformed the region's cultural scene, presenting great performers from around the world and making this historic region a cultural destination for visitors from across the United States and around the world. Over the past 25 years, the Festival has welcomed visitors from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 25 foreign countries. The Festival has presented over 1,438 performances, free community events, and student matinees and workshops with a reach of over 1.2 million attendees. Each season, millions more are reached through international broadcasts of Festival performances on American Public Radio's Performance Today, nationally on PBS TV, and regionally on WHRO TV. Over 32% of ticket sales come from outside the region, bringing tens of thousands of visitors to local museums and attractions and filling regional hotels and restaurants. The estimated annual economic impact of the Festival exceeds $25 million.  

Artist-led, Virginia Arts Festival places artistic excellence above all. The Festival's artistic leadership includes Robert W. Cross, the Festival's Executive Director / Perry Artistic Director, a Grammy Award-winning percussionist; Olga Kern, the Festival's Connie and Marc Jacobson Director of Chamber Music, a Van Cliburn Gold Medal awarded pianist; and award-winning Broadway music director Rob Fisher is the Goode Family Director of Music Theater and American Songbook. Since 1997, some of the world's most prestigious artists have graced the Festival stages; acclaimed ballet and dance companies Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Mark Morris Dance Company, Dance Theater of Harlem, Pilobolus, Netherlands Dance Theater, Cuban National Ballet, and Martha Graham Dance Company; great orchestras including Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Orchestra, Academy of Ancient Music with conductors including Leonard Slatkin, Lorin Maazel, and Julius Rudel; renowned vocalists and opera stars including Renée Fleming, Eric Owens, Ryan Speedo Green, Kristen Chenoweth, and Audra McDonald; instrumentalists and ensembles Itzak Perlman, Midori, Joshua Bell, Yo-Yo Ma, Alisa Weilerstein, Gil Shaham, Olga Kern, André-Michel Schub, Yuja Wang, Tokyo String Quartet, and Emerson String Quartet; renowned theatre companies including the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theater of Scotland; and contemporary music icons including Herbie Hancock, Gary Burton, Chic Corea, Wynton Marsalis, Rhiannon Giddens, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Hornsby, Sheryl Crow, Diana Krall, Allison Krauss, Norah Jones, Chris Thile, Jake Shimabukuro, Wood Brothers, Bela' Fleck, Ravii Shankar and Anoushka Shankar. 

The Festival has presented numerous world and regional premieres and regularly commissions’ new dance and music works. Notable new works include Dance Theater of Harlem (Passage, 2019; Claudia Schreier, choreographer, and Jessie Montgomery, composer; and Brahms Variations, 2016; Robert Garland, choreographer); Mark Morris Dance Group (Romeo and Juliet, Mark Morris choreographer), new chamber works by composers Ellen Taaffe Zwillich (Piano Trio 2008) and Chen Yi (Chinese Ancient Dance Suite and Night Thoughts, 2002); new works for opera by composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist Mark Campbell, (Rappahannock County, 2011), Pocahontas Chamber Opera by composer Linda Tutis Haugen and librettist Joan Vail Thorne, Kept, a ghost story by composer Kristen Kuster and librettist Megan Levad, and a pair of one-act chamber operas that will premiere in June 2022: Briar Patch, Nkeiru Okoye composer and Carmen Moore librettist; and Companionship, Rachel J. Peters, composer/librettist. 

Since 1997, one of the anchor events of the Festival is the Virginia International Tattoo. Inspired by the grand traditions of Tattoos in Edinburgh, Scotland, and London, England, the Virginia International Tattoo had big dreams. Led by J. Scott Jackson, the Virginia International Tattoo has become the largest such event in North America and numbers among the largest Tattoos in the world. Selected by the American Bus Association—the nation's premier travel organization—as the top event in the United States in 2016, the Virginia International Tattoo has drawn visitors from across the country and around the world and has welcomed performers from 31 nations. There simply is no comparable experience in the United States and no greater voice for expressing our nation's gratitude to those who serve. Some of the most memorable of the 25 past Virginia International Tattoos have saluted the Tuskegee Airmen, Vietnam Veterans, Medal of Honor recipients, and women in the military. Each show is a moving lesson in history and patriotism for every generation, including the more than 20,000 students who attend the Tattoo every year. 

Virginia Arts Festival is committed to honoring, presenting, and nurturing artists who reflect the diversity of the communities we serve. Since 2004, the Festival has presented a wide range of performances in Norfolk's historic Attucks Theater, the oldest remaining theater in the U.S. that was envisioned, designed, and built by African Americans. In 2019 the Festival curated a 100th Anniversary celebration season in the Attucks Theatre and participated in creating WHRO's Emmy Award-winning public television documentary The Historic Attucks Theater, Apollo of the South. 

One of the Festival's great successes is our commitment to our local arts community. The Festival regularly partners with Chrysler Museum, Feldman Chamber Music Society, Ferguson Center for the Arts, Norfolk State University Theater Company, Old Dominion University Ludwig Diehn School of Music, Sandler Center Foundation, Virginia Opera, Virginia Stage Company, Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Tidewater Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, and Tidewater Classical Guitar Society. 

Arts education is central to the mission of the Virginia Arts Festival. Since its creation in 1997, the Festival has reached more than half a million students, providing opportunities for students and educators that simply would not otherwise exist. Each year, the Festival reaches over 30,000 young people through student matinees, in-school performances, workshops, and masterclasses, offering life-changing opportunities to see and study with virtuoso performers. The Rhythm Project, a community engagement program of the Festival, is a world percussion program dedicated to nurturing self-esteem through individual and cooperative achievement. Eleven ensembles serve the cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Portsmouth. 

The Festival continues to receive national recognition for its artistic excellence, earning support from the Aaron Copland Fund, Surdna Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Capezio Foundation, Bank of America Neighborhood Builders, and the Hampton Roads Community Foundation.