Festival Banner (the Arts Festival blog)

The Festival Reimagined: We’re Going Virtual!

Last week’s announcement that we were canceling the 2020 Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts was like sharing the news that a well-loved friend had died. All at once, the news was everywhere: our announcement on Facebook was shared almost 600 times, reached over 73,000 people, and had almost 15,000 reactions and comments. Festival staff, board members, and key volunteers received more condolence messages than we could count.

Had COVID-19 related social distancing measures not been in place, I’m sure my friends would have brought a ham, several casseroles, and beer to my house just as people do when there’s a death in my family.

Today, I’m excited to report on our nascent plans to move the 2020 Festival to an online experience. 

In a way, we’re harking back to what Wally Lloyd and his colleagues did in the summer of 1967 when they created the first Arts Festival. We’re trying out new ideas and, since the economy has ground to a halt, we’re working with a shoestring budget. This year’s Virtual Festival will take place on our scheduled dates, July 8-12.

Two of our events won’t change much: Images 2020, our juried gallery exhibition, and our Banner Competition.

Images 2020 will take place on our website instead of hanging in Schlow Centre Region Library and the Kish Bank Expect More Store. Images 2020 will still be open to artists – including student artists – whose permanent residence is in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Emily Burns is the juror for Images 2020. The submission deadline is May 29. You can find more details about the exhibition here.

The Banner Competition, sponsored by First Energy Corporation, is still on, with a submission deadline of June 19. While we won’t be hanging them over Allen Street in 2020, we’ll hang them in the State College Municipal Building and in non-traditional locations around the county as soon as it’s possible. We’ll also exhibit them online. We’ll still award prizes in three divisions: professional, general, and youth. Next summer we’ll hang the 2020 banners with their 2021 counterparts over Allen Street. Want more details? Click here.  

We’ll also be presenting an online version of our signature event, the Sidewalk Sale and Exhibition. You’ll be able to browse through a great selection of juried artists and shop online. We plan to present videos by artists talking about their work so that audience members can connect with them just as they do at the show. Only artists who have a website or other e-commerce option will be invited to the virtual Sidewalk Sale, so shopping will be a breeze.  And, if you’re looking for a specific artist you don’t see online, please reach out to Festival staff so we can connect you with the artist you’re seeking.

It wouldn’t be a Festival without a poster designed by Lanny and Saige Sommese. We’re still working out the distribution channels, but that’s a minor detail. We will also have posters available for sale for a modest fee on our website. I think if there’s any Festival to remember with a poster, it will be this one.

We’ve just started to make plans to bring performances to you. While some of them could be live online shows, it seems likely (today at least) that others will be performers showing off their best videos.  Just as artists are now depending on online sales, this income stream is important to musicians too. Many of our performers will have CDs and downloads for sale. 

Our street painters are a favorite part of the Festival for much of our audience. Last year, when we moved them from Heister Street to Foster Avenue, they had their biggest audience ever.  We’re working on a spot where our street painters can work in an appropriately socially distanced way. There’s a lot of content from previous Street Painting Festivals that we’ll be sharing too.

We’re still working out how to put some of Children and Youth Day online. Most youngsters haven’t been able to get into the band room or dance studio for more than a month. Sadly, that doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon. Before we put any young performers or artists online, we still need to make sure that the Virtual Festival is a safe spot for kids.

The Festival is the quintessential live, in-person, anti-social-distancing event. There’s a ton of work to do to bring it to you virtually, but our paid and volunteer staff is going to give it a shot. Stay tuned and wish us luck!

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