CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – America’s premier international performing arts festival is back for its first full season since 2019. News 2 spoke with the festival’s general director on Thursday about what this event means to the Holy City.

Spoleto Festival USA is back in full force after challenges posed by the pandemic the past two years.

“It’s really about celebrating humanity through the arts,” Mena Mark Hanna, general director for Spoleto Festival USA, said, “and we do that for 17 days in Charleston.”

Hanna says after hosting a smaller version of the festival in 2021, he’s eager to have the full-scale event back in the Lowcountry.

“We’re doing three operas,” he said, “two plays, three dance performances plus Machine de Cirque. A full array of chamber music, of orchestral music.”

With more than 120 performances, Hanna says the festival can seem intimidating, but he wants attendees to explore their interests, as well as cultivate new ones.

“I think a festival is a way for us to find something that we recognize,” he said, “that we find solace in, and also, explore new art forms and explore new means of human expression.”

There will be a soft opening for the festival Thursday evening with a festival feast at Union Station.

“We’re looking at the origin of Lowcountry food,” Hanna said. “Of barbecue, of Gullah Geechee food in West Africa.”

Hanna hopes everyone who attends comes away with a new perspective about art.

“That’s what’s so important about this community,” he said, “about the strength of Charleston and its larger area. Spoleto thrives here because of the kinds of conversations we’re able to have through our artwork.”

The festival runs from May 27 to June 12 and more details about the event can be found at