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by Sheryl Woodhouse
The 4th Street Festival of the Arts and Fine Crafts will return to Bloomington, Indiana, on Labor Day weekend. Like every event that attracts a large crowd, 4th Street Art Festival was cancelled last year because of the pandemic. While there will be a handful of art shows throughout Summer 2021, the 45th annual 4th Street Art Festival will be the first show that many artists have done in at least 18 months. Artists and patrons are ready!
The festival will be held at its namesake location, on East 4th Street, between Grant Street and Indiana Avenue on Saturday, September 4, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday, September 5, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In order to make the show welcoming and safe for patrons, the 4th Street committee will have only 80 booths, instead of the usual 125, to allow space between each booth for ease of social distancing. While the music and spoken-word stages and community booths will be virtual this year, 4th Street is partnering with Lotus Education & Arts Foundation to provide a children’s tent for making take-home projects at the actual event.
4th Street will follow current CDC guidelines, which recommend that unvaccinated artists and patrons wear masks at the event. Hand sanitizing stations will be available around the show.
Most artists would agree that 2020 was a challenging year financially and emotionally, yet inspirational and satisfying in terms of their art. For artists who rely on art shows for income, typically traveling to 20 or more shows a year, 2020 delivered a serious blow to their income. Thanks to the CARES Act and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), artists received financial assistance with forgivable loans and up to 50 weeks of unemployment benefits for self-employed people who are typically not eligible. Artists shifted to selling online, wholesaling their work to galleries and shops, holding pop-up shows at their home — outdoors or in their garages — and occasionally having customers contact them directly as public mindset shifted to the importance of supporting local businesses.
From a practical standpoint, being off the road simply allowed more time to innovate not just their business models but their art as well. But the quietness of staying home was also important. “Creativity is often sparked when one allows oneself to be still,” says Bloomington potter Kris Busch. “Many of us have been able to put effort into creating new bodies of work without the pressure of considering how the public will react to it, and just letting the ideas flow. It’s been very freeing.”
Dawn Adams, a local painter who found 2020 to be a year of experimenting and introspection, agrees. “Without the immediate pressure to sell,” Adams says, “there was the opportunity to look at my work with fresh eyes, and ask, ‘What kind of art would I like to make just to satisfy myself?’”
Beyond the paycheck, there are other ways artists have felt the loss of shows. One plus to the show artist’s lifestyle is the joy of traveling and visiting the towns that the shows are in. Sometimes it’s getting to see new places, or it’s visiting favorite restaurants or sites in cities where they show work every year. Emotionally, artists have missed the interactions with patrons, who give immediate feedback on their work, and with other artists, whom they become close friends with over the years while setting up and doing shows together.
“I personally have missed visiting with my many artist friends that I only see at art fairs,” Busch says. “I look forward to catching up with them this fall!”
As Adams says, “There is nothing like interacting with a viewer who is taken with your work. Art is communication. It starts with the artist, moves into the artwork, and ends with the viewer. The meaning can change with each viewer. Art fairs are uniquely formatted to provide this kind of interaction, and it is a wonder to behold.”
As artists integrate new selling avenues into their business models moving forward, many will continue to do shows, but fewer of them. Busch sees this as a good thing for both artists and patrons: “It will make room for new artists to present at fairs, and expose patrons to new work and new ideas.”
This year, patrons can look forward to a mix of old and new artists from Bloomington, the Midwest, and beyond, with lots of new work inspired by a time of challenge, change, and stillness. Artists are looking forward to lots of enthusiastic patrons, eager to interact with both the art and its creators again, and eager to bring some of that inspiration home.
As local potter Rebecca Lowery says about what’s she’s missed and why she’s looking forward to the 45th annual 4th Street Art Festival, “Online sales cannot compare to art fairs for volume of sales and the quality of in-person interactions between patron and artists. Each artist’s work is unique, and some work just needs to be seen in person.”
To get a sneak peek at this year’s artists before Labor Day weekend, visit https://www.4thstreet.org/artists.
Bloomington, Indiana, Labor Day weekend
Saturday, September 4, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday, September 5, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
East 4th Street between Grant Street and Indiana Avenue
Categories of Art
“There is nothing like interacting with a viewer who is taken with your work. Art is communication. It starts with the artist, moves into the artwork, and ends with the viewer. The meaning can change with each viewer. Art fairs are uniquely formatted to provide this kind of interaction, and it is a wonder to behold.” —Bloomington painter Dawn Adams
CDC guidelines recommend that unvaccinated artists and patrons wear masks at the event. Fewer booths will allow for social distancing. Hand sanitizing stations will be available around the show.
For more info about information about the 45th annual 4th Street Festival of the Arts and Crafts, go to https://www.4thstreet.org/artists.
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