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Harrisonburg International Festival Named 2021 Circle of Excellence in the Arts award winner

Forbes Center
Forbes Center for the Performing Arts at James Madison University. Photo courtesy James Madison University.

The Harrisonburg International Festival has brought together hundreds of thousands of people over the past 24 years to build connections, find common ground, and celebrate arts and cultures from around the world.

The Festival is this year’s recipient of the Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award. The award is co-sponsored by the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts at James Madison University, the Arts Council of the Valley, and College of Visual and Performing Arts at JMU.

“The Harrisonburg International Festival is a major contributor to the artistic spirit of the Shenandoah Valley, and it is an honor to present them with this year’s Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award,” says Regan Byrne, executive director of the Forbes Center.

Founded in 1997, the Harrisonburg International Festival started small as an alliance of various community groups and individuals who wanted to promote tolerance among all residents, offer support for local immigrants, refugees and culturally diverse businesses, and affirm the importance of welcoming all who live in Harrisonburg. Now one of the largest outdoor events in the Shenandoah Valley, The Festival reaches more than 10,000 people per year who represent over 40 cultures and countries and 53 languages. The Festival celebrates the vast diversity of Harrisonburg through international music, dance, food, crafts, storytelling and family-friendly activities for everyone—giving rise to its community ethos: Educate, entertain, and eat!

In addition to embracing and celebrating the community’s diverse cultural traditions, the Festival seeks to build bridges and mutual understanding. The Festival is a program of the Civic Engagement branch of the Fairfield Center, a nonprofit organization working to advance dialogue and understanding in the community.

Comprised of the Dorothy Thomasson Estes Center for Theatre and Dance and the Shirley Hanson Roberts Center for Music Performance, the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts at James Madison University is committed to fostering interdisciplinary programs campus-wide that impact the creative process positively by encouraging dialogue about the intersection between society and the arts, and by valuing multicultural and community engagement and arts education in the broader Shenandoah Valley.

The Arts Council of the Valley (ACV) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to cultivating the arts and connecting communities in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. Since its establishment in 2000, ACV has grown into a multifaceted community organization that manages the Smith House Galleries, supports childhood learning by way of the Any Given Child Shenandoah Valley initiative, funds local art projects through its Advancing the Arts grant program, and coordinates monthly First Fridays Downtown community gatherings.


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