Experiencing fine art and music on the streets of Columbus, Ohio, will have to wait until next summer, as a city staple arts event has been canceled for 2020.
The Columbus Arts Festival was canceled Thursday morning due to health concerns from COVID-19, according to a press release on the festival website. The festival, originally scheduled for June 12-14, was set to include nearly 270 artists from 38 states and four countries and expected to attract more than 500,000 visitors, according to a letter posted on the festival website from Tom Katzenmeyer, president and CEO of the Greater Columbus Arts Council, which organizes the event.
“As with many decisions being made during the pandemic, we realize that ours adds another devastating blow, not just to the artists who depend on the Arts Festival to make money, and the vendors we pay to provide services, but to the people who look forward to the Arts Festival as Columbus’ welcome to summer event each year,” Katzenmeyer said.
The festival presents an opportunity for artists from across the world to promote and sell their art along the Scioto Mile each year, in addition to offering dozens of live musical performances and poetry readings.
Evangelia Philippidis, an illustrator and seasoned veteran of smaller local art festivals, said the cancellation will have a heavy financial impact.
“I was looking to make some money to be able to feed my family,” she said.
Philippidis, an adjunct professor at the Columbus College of Art and Design, said her last paycheck will be in May, and she was relying in part on art sales to tide her over until classes picked back up in October. The festival is the latest in a line of canceled galleries and events at which she was hoping to sell her work.
Beyond the lost income, Philippidis said she was planning to use this festival as a stepping stone into the fine arts world. She said she made a name for herself as an editorial features illustrator for the Columbus Dispatch and has had a following for 32 years, but she wanted to reach a new audience at the festival.
For Ian Brandeberry, a Short North Arts District photographer, the cancellation poses similar career setbacks.
As a member of the festival’s Emerging Artist program, Brandeberry was supposed to be given assistance with what would have been his first major art festival.
“It’s a missed opportunity to kinda get to know other artists, and get some of my work out there and exposed more, and kind of feel what it’s like to get involved in a large show,” Brandeberry said. “I feel like the Emerging Artist program was going to be a really good way for me to kind of dip my toes into a larger arts festival experience.”
Brandeberry has a full-time job, but he said he is concerned for artists whose major sources of income are festivals. He said booths make an average of $6,000 in sales at the Columbus Arts Festival alone.
“It slows me down for what I want to do, but ultimately, I’m more concerned about the people that were hit by this harder, who kind of rely on money from show to show,” Brandeberry said.
As one of those artists, Philippidis said she knows the outlook for this year is bleak. Still, she remains optimistic. She said she has lost thousands of dollars at some festivals and weathered others through ankle-deep rain, but she has no trouble staying motivated.
“When you’ve been in the business as long as I have, you start to — you roll with the punches,” she said. “This whole thing has been a huge blow, financially, for me and career-wise, that’s true. But I’m not gonna sit there and cry over it. I tell my students the three words they have to live by are: adapt, improvise, overcome.”
Artists who were selected to showcase their wares this year will be allowed to forego the jury process for 2021, according to the press release. Both artists said they will return next year and hope to use the current downtime to prepare even further.
“Yes, it’s disappointing, but it’s not the end of the world,” Philippidis said. “And when it happens, it’s gonna be great. It’s gonna be great, and it’s gonna be worth it.”