By Joe Garvey

Cullen Strawn, Old Dominion University’s executive director for the arts, has long wanted to grow and diversify programming in the arts village.

“For several years I have been in discussions with Josh Coplon of LAVA Presents about collaborating on a multi-day event in some of our venues, with music and accompanying activities that would feature area talent and appeal to our students and surrounding communities,” Strawn said.

Those efforts will come to fruition when ODU hosts the inaugural YES Fest on March 10 and 11 at the Goode Theatre and Gordon Art Galleries. It will feature 25 bands, including Palm Palm, Community Witch, They Are Gutting A Body Of Water, Knifeplay, Palmyra, The Lazy Dangers and Esbern Snare. Strawn said that among other planned activities are a market and workshop by Norfolk Zine Fest, and a community kirtan (call-and-response songs/chants) by Virginia Community Yoga, led by ODU faculty member Mica Deckard.

“We are thrilled to bring so much local and regional talent home to the ODU community.” - Cullen Strawn, ODU's executive director for the arts

On March 10, doors will open at 5 p.m. with music starting at 5:45 p.m. On March 11, doors will open at 3:30 p.m. with music starting at 4:15 p.m.

“YES Fest started as an idea and way to introduce ODU students to the music community going on in Hampton Roads. What better way to say, ‘Hey, check out the music scene,’ than with 25 bands over two days, representing a variety of genres and styles?” said Coplon, LAVA Presents’ owner and promoter. “LAVA Presents is excited to have such an incredible and welcoming partner with Arts@ODU and looks forward to a ridiculously fun event this March.”

“We are thrilled to bring so much local and regional talent home to the ODU community,” Strawn added, “and to use the event as an opportunity for our students to participate in graphic design, audio and light engineering, and event management.”

To that end, ODU graphic design major Kris Cameron created the fest’s promotional designs for her senior project. Furthermore, technical production students will be working in Goode Theatre under the direction of Joshua Knibb, facilities manager for Goode Theatre and Brock Commons.

Cameron learned about the project from Kenneth FitzGerald, one of her art professors. He connected her with Strawn, and she then got in touch with Coplon.

“The YES Fest project has been a really exciting experience,” she said. “It's allowed me to learn a lot about communicating with clients and how to present myself as a freelance designer.”

She designed the main poster and other assets, including a schedule and social media promotions.

“The main graphic of my design is a robot that has a lot of random gadgets and electronic doodads,” Cameron said. “I wanted it to be a very fun design that keeps surprising the viewer the more they look at it.”

She added that this project will help her down the road.

“YES Fest specifically has served as a sort of stepping stone, allowing me to get real-world experience and connections that help me go from a student to junior graphic designer,” Cameron said. “It's been so fun to see this project come to life and see my design out on the windows of places in Ghent. I would recommend for graphic design students to try a project like this one while finishing their studies.”

So how did event organizers settle on calling it YES Fest?

“Name ideas were submitted and reviewed by our core group of planners,” Strawn said, “and one name that I submitted was YES Fest, which caught on as something simple, positive and easy to remember and incorporate into promotional materials.”

The finalized lineup of musical acts and other activities, as well as ticket information, will be available at and