WESTERLY — There's more to do in Westerly then go to the beach and the organizers of Thursday's Downtown Shutdown Live Event are intent on exposing some of the town's more inland offerings.
"It's to celebrate our great downtown and all the arts and music that this community has to offer," said Wendy Brown, president of Bricks & Murals.
Brown's organization is teaming with the Westerly-Pawcatuck Downtown Business Association to present the free event, which is scheduled for 5 to 10 p.m. in the High and Canal streets area.
An array of live music performed mostly by young local artists is planned for 5 to 8 p.m. The list of entertainers includes the Westminster Strings, a youth string ensemble comprised of musicians from Southern Rhode Island and Southeastern Connecticut. Also on tap are the Westerly High School marching Band, the Chariho High School Ensemble and the Stonington High School Sax Group. The band Sugar will play from 8 to 10 p.m. on the main stage in front of the United Theatre on Canal Street.
The downtown area many restaurants will be supplemented by food trucks that will gather to form an outdoor food court. Nine of the restaurants and bars will compete to see which one can build the most creative outdoor space. A panel of secret "mystery shoppers" will serve as judges, Brown said. The winner will receive a trophy donated by Nigrelli's Jewelry, one of the many stores that plans to stay open late and to have outdoor displays.
Several restaurants and others such as Grey Sail Brewing of Rhode Island and the Westery High School culinary arts program will offer pop-up cafes. A host of performances and demonstrations are planned by several Westerly High School arts classes.
Businesses and nonprofit organizations will also be on hand staffing information booths to explain what they do and the services they offer.
Bricks & Murals, the organization that brought dozens of artists to the town in 2017 to paint murals on the outdoor walls of buildings in the downtown area, is continuing with a focus on public art and art education and enhancing the downtown area. The fact that many of the scheduled performers are students is intentional, Brown said.
"One of the missions of Bricks & Murals is arts education, so we do put an emphasis on young musicians and young artists and giving them an opportunity to flaunt their stuff. Young artists don't have a lot of places to perform. This is an opportunity they get excited by," Brown said.
Ten percent of the proceeds generated by the participating businesses will be donated to Bricks & Murals, a 501(c)(3) organization, to benefit its scholarship fund and a fund it uses to pay for maintenance to the murals. The business association will also receive a portion of the donated proceeds.
Bricks & Murals gives $1,000 scholarships each year to one Westerly High School student and one Stonington High School student planning to study the arts, whether visual, music, dance, or drama, Brown said.
The Downtown Shutdown drew an estimated 2,500 people last year and an even bigger crowd is anticipated this year, Brown said.