After COVID-19 nearly wiped the 2020 slate of popular events in Wilsonville clean, the city's biggest artists showcase, the Wilsonville Festival of Arts, has been canceled again this year.
However, organizers are planning quarterly events, starting with one later this month, to give local residents a chance to soak in the art scene from their living rooms and potentially with friends on a smaller scale.
The Wilsonville Arts and Culture Council (WACC) quarterly showcase starts with the "Dream Beyond COVID" exhibit, which will run from Jan. 18 to March 31 on its website, wilsonvillearts.org. The council will then host other events in the spring, summer and fall.
"It's just not possible during COVID and social distancing to have that large, multidisciplinary event, so we are adapting to the new paradigm and decided instead to produce four seasonal, quarterly, smaller cultural events that people can interact with virtually, which is the safe thing to do now," said WACC President Christopher Shotola-Hardt.
Along with the health risks, Shotola-Hardt said organizing an art festival requires preparation many months in advance. It also demands certainty, which isn't possible amid an unwavering and unpredictable pandemic. Last year the WACC had to pay a director despite the fact that the festival never took place, for instance.
"Obviously we wish things were different. We lost a lot of money last year planning for the festival and having to cancel it," he said.
However, the WACC has received a $2,600 grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust, as well as a couple other grants, to put on the 2021 events. After the January showcase, the group plans to host a Wilsonville community portrait project, where artists will draw portraits of important people in the community. Despite the cancellation of the art festival, Shotola-Hardt said the WACC also hopes to offer summer pop-up concerts for small gatherings.
"This summer the pop-up concert performances each night will feature one act. Maybe one for dance, different genres of music: a blues band, a folk band, world music. There might be opera or a scene from a play. All of that is in the planning now," he said. "If that can't be live, we would have virtual performances."
Then, in the fall, the WACC is teaming up with Wilsonville High School to host the annual Dia De Los Muertos festival. Shotola-Hardt said it's unclear how that event will take shape.
As for the upcoming exhibit, "Dream Beyond COVID," local artists will create works based on what people wish they could do in a world without a pandemic, while also exploring how the pandemic has changed them — even for the better. The selections will be juried but Shotola-Hardt expects most of the submissions to be accepted. He's enthused about the variety of materials used for the submissions he's received.
He added: "I'm excited about that range of experience and really stressing we are hoping for artists of all ages and ability levels."
Shotola-Hardt has already hosted multiple virtual festivals during the pandemic and said he was surprised by the popularity of the exhibits as well as the broad geographic range of viewers.
"When we look at the analytics at the end of October (for the Blackfish Gallery's Be About Love festival) it blew up, and we have an exciting map showing that our reach for that festival was global. We had hits from every single continent. That would not have happened otherwise," he said.
Despite the considerable adversity, Shotola-Hardt said he's noticed a verve emanating from the WACC over the last year.
"It's exciting. We have a lot of new people on the board. It's an energetic, inspired group. We want to make Wilsonville a vibrant, loving, active community," he said.
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