What exactly is a virtual arts festival anyway?
I think there are probably as many answers to that question as there are arts festivals!
Here at CPFA we tried to take our event, and with our staff and skills, and move that experience online. As we’ve said before, the Festival is the ultimate anti-social-distancing event, and some of the quintessential Festival experiences just don’t translate to an online platform. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t create a virtual experience where you ran into someone from your dorm you hadn’t seen in twenty years. Fortunately, other things were a bit easier than that.
There are 157 exhibitors in the Virtual Sidewalk Sale. Yes, there are usually 300, but the virtual event was only open to those artists who had, or who could build an online sales platform.
When you click on an artist’s name on our website, you’ll see their photo—yes, they’re real people! Some have a very nice studio portrait while others opted for an informal selfie. All of the artists look very happy to see Penn Staters who like to shop. (As in….you!)
The next slide you’ll see is a short greeting from the artist. Many noted how much they’ll miss State College and Penn State in the summer. The feeling is mutual—we miss them too! Don’t skip over their greeting. Lots of artists have a coupon code good for free shipping or other discounts during the virtual festival.
Then you’ll see four images of their work. Those are the images that artists show to our jurors when they apply to the show. If you click back to the first image, there will be a link to the artists’ website and where you can shop. I don’t suppose I have to remind you this is a great time to buy holiday, wedding, baby, and just about any other kind of gift. There hasn’t been an arts festival since mid-March and there are none on the horizon. If you want to see a “real” Festival next summer, support our artists by shopping!
So, what about the performances?
We’ll be offering free streaming performances at noon, 4:00pm, 7:00pm, and 9:00pm, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Our good friends James Tierney and Jason Browne of StateCollegeLive have been super helpful setting this up. James and Jason will host the performances. The performances are free, but you’ll have the opportunity to tip the performer.
We’ll be showcasing some of your favorite local performers like Velveeta and Triple A Blues Band. We’ll also have two performers of international stature. We’re delighted to bring you the master of the Scottish fiddle Alasdair Fraser on Friday evening. On Saturday, it’s time for Trout Fishing in America. Those of you with long memories might remember that the Trouts were here in 2008….in other words, forever ago.
Not all of the live performances are music. Happy Valley Improv is back for a Thursday night show. Lord knows, we could all use a couple of laughs right about now! And speaking of laughs, vaudeville performer Michael Rosman will be with us too. We also have nine artists who are doing online demos or inviting us into their studios. Some of these are Facebook Live events, and others are on Zoom or YouTube. The links in our website should take you to the right place. Artist events are scheduled for 11:00am, 1:00pm, and 3:00pm, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
And if live music isn’t your thing, you’ll find a list of curated on-demand performances on the website too. They range from songs by rocker Ted McCloskey to the Johnstown Symphony Chorus doing a Zoom version of America the Beautiful. We also have a nice selection of video updates from artists in the show too.
As for food, you can shop at great variety of local specialty food vendors, most of which you know from seeing them on South Allen Street in previous years. This year, we’re especially excited to partner with University Wine Company which has produced an Arts Festival White and Arts Festival Rosé, too. The label is based on this year’s super popular poster, designed by Lanny and Saige Sommese. I know that my co-workers and I are looking forward to a glass of wine when the virtual festival is over!
Yikes, how did I not mention our live streamed fitness events? Shannon Bishop will be on hand to do a belly dance class, and Mandy Glitzer is back to teach yoga. We’re delighted to welcome Jill Fitzgerald who’ll be on hand to teach a tap class via Zoom. Jill swears that she can turn someone with two left feet like me into a dancer, but I think she’s a little too optimistic on that score. Even if you don’t turn into Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers after taking Jill’s Zoom class, it’s a great way to get up and get moving.
Our exhibition Images 2020 is online now, so please check it out here.
Artist Rebecca Thornburgh has captured some great festival experiences—the dumping buckets, our banners, Old Main Lawn, and so on, as coloring pages for kids. Just download and print the page, color or paint it, and then send it back to us. So far, the Creamery ice cream cone is proving to be the most popular image.
We’re still collecting and selling friendship bracelets for the Tying Us Together Project. If you’re making some, keep doing that and send them to us! We’ve received photos of people wearing them from as far away as Hawaii and London. Bracelets are for sale at several locations in downtown State College and in our online store as well.
Yes, I’ve missed a few things, like street painting, banners, our jigsaw puzzle, and well, probably some other things too. We’ll be working right up to the last moment, so please check our website for updates.
This spring has been quite a challenge for the entire Festival family—artists, performers, food vendors, our visitors’ bureau, and on and on. Almost all of their businesses stopped virtually overnight. Indeed, it’s been quite a challenge for the creative economy across the nation—I’m sure everyone I’ve ever met has heard that I finally had tickets for Hamilton in New York City for the Friday that Broadway went dark.
As terrible as this has been, it’s had bright spots too. I hope I’ve learned to be more grateful to my creative and hardworking co-workers Carol and Jennifer, who I’ve only seen a handful of times since mid-March. None of us have seen our talented digital specialist Rachael–she’s been working from her parents home in Delaware. Our board, led by Renata Engel, could not have been more helpful or supportive through this ordeal. So, before I turn this into the Festival blog’s version of the world’s worst Academy Awards acceptance speech, two more words: thank you.
In closing, some advice for the next few days: tune in, enjoy, and if you can, buy stuff. Yes, you won’t be with 125,000 of your nearest and dearest, but attending from the comfort of your laptop, tablet, or phone is the next best thing to being there.