by PAUL BICKLEY
The 4th Street Festival of the Arts & Crafts will be an in-person event this year after being held virtually in 2020.
Now in its 45th year, the festival normally features 125 artists who exhibit and sell their paintings, photographs, sculptures, fiber arts, glass and wood arts, and jewelry at local, regional, and national art fairs. Area nonprofit arts groups also set up booths promoting community projects and art-related opportunities, and musicians and other performance artists entertain visitors. The two-day event has attracted as many as 40,000 people from throughout the Midwest.
Rebecca Lowery, vice president of the festival committee, says the organization adapted to a virtual platform in 2020 by launching new web pages that allowed visitors to access the artists, community art booths, a children’s booth, a music tent, a spoken-word tent, and an information booth from the safety of their own homes.
Visitors to the website could purchase art online, download coloring and craft projects for children, and view musical performances and spoken-word poetry in the form of videos created by the performers.
And while the temporary online model wasn’t as financially fruitful for most of the artists, “the offering of a virtual presence let people know that we didn’t just give up, and kept us in the minds of our patrons,” Lowery says.
This year’s event will see 80 artists set up booths instead of the usual 125 to accommodate 10-foot spacing between booths, and the music and spoken-word stages will remain virtual. As of now, masks will be required.
Lowery says that most artists she knows are happy to return to live festivals. “Online sales cannot compare to art fairs for volume of sales and the quality of interactions between patrons and artists,” she explains. “Each artist’s work is unique and just needs to be seen in person.”
The festival will take place—rain or shine—on East 4th Street between South Indiana Avenue and Grant Street on Saturday, September 4, from 10 a.m.–6 p.m. and Sunday, September 5, from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Learn more at 4street.org.