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Day of the Arts showcases songwriting, painting, comedy, and more

Dr. How and the Reasons to Live will perform and tell the "stories behind the songs" as part of the Day of the Arts event.
Chris Howdyshell
Dr. How and the Reasons to Live will perform and tell the "stories behind the songs" as part of the Day of the Arts event.

This Saturday, a day-long celebration of art takes over downtown Harrisonburg with free performances and activities. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

The Day of the Arts kicks off the morning of May 4th with chalk art outside Asbury United Methodist Church, interactive mural painting at Court Square Theater, and a screening of a Frida Kahlo documentary. Free programs throughout the day will showcase a range of art forms, from improv comedy to mosaics to dance. Then, at 7:30, Dr. How and the Reasons to Live take the stage.

Chris Howdyshell and the band have been playing music together for more than 20 years. This show will give attendees a behind-the-scenes look at what inspires their songs.

CHRIS HOWDYSHELL: There's five songwriters in our band … so this is an opportunity for us to talk up the stories behind the songs and, you know, tell the tales!

Take the song "Cross Your Fingers," for example.

HOWDYSHELL: It is inspired by a book that I had found in the library when I was in kindergarten at Ottobine Elementary School … "Cross Your Fingers, Spit In Your Hat." … So later in my life, I decided to use those words for a song about love and luck, and then I started reading Alan Watts … and so I was like, oh, let's write a song about love and Zen! And so, "cross your fingers, spit in your hat, love has a way to work out like that" kind of formed from that.

He describes their sound as Americana – where folk meets country meets storytelling – but they have a tendency to rock.

HOWDYSHELL: This is us playing songs we wrote, and it's our hearts out there on the sleeves. I'm excited to do something different for the people of Harrisonburg, and it's free, so come on! [laughs]

The festivities are supported by The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County's Earlynn J. Miller Fund for the Arts.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.