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Crafting a new festival: MAC’s ArtFest is going online in its 35th year this weekend

UPDATED: Thu., May 28, 2020

In some ways, the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t changed much about the 35th annual ArtFest, presented Friday through Sunday by the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.

This year’s festival will still highlight the work of 100 regional artists and the music of a variety of regional bands. The festival also will feature artist demonstrations and projects for young artists and their families.

The only difference is this year, the entire three-day event has been moved online. Like countless other organizations, the MAC had to figure out how to adjust events so they would abide by the rules of our current world.

Michele Dionne, special events manager at the MAC, was closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and in constant contact with the city and quickly realized that, while the museum wouldn’t be able to host ArtFest as usual, they also couldn’t just cancel the event.

“The MAC has been presenting this for 34 years,” she said. “This would have been our 35th year, and it’s really a celebration of art and fine craft and an Inland Northwest tradition at this point.”

She gathered her staff and they started talking about how to bring ArtFest online. In a short time, the team created an ArtFest website, artfestspokane.com, which includes a list of participating artists, a gallery of their work and links to each artist’s website or Instagram, Etsy or Facebook page.

“The obvious was going to the artists first and saying, ‘We want to support you, and we want to support sales to you, as well, and here’s how we’re going to do it,’ ” Dionne said. “Their response by and large, once they understood what we were doing, they were really grateful.”

This year’s festival features juried artists who work in a variety of mediums including jewelry, fiber, painting, metalwork, musical instruments, printmaking, mixed media, ceramics, wood, photography, drawing, glass, furniture and leather. One hundred percent of all sales go directly to the artists.

Each day of ArtFest, online programming will feature artist demonstrations, music videos and family-friendly art projects. “During this time, I think mothers and fathers and caregivers are looking for any experience that they can do with their kids, so this is perfect,” Dionne said.

On Friday, watercolor artist and teacher Megan Perkins will host “The Artist’s Sketchbook,” during which she will sketch, then work on a watercolor of the gazebo in Coeur d’Alene Park. She also will discuss her sketchbook in her video.

Make-It Art Kids’ Projects are playdough art, with a video including an ingredient list, instructions and a demonstration, and hanging mobile art using materials around your home. Music videos featured Friday include Vanna Oh!’s “Chaperone” and Chris Molitor’s “Carry Me.”

On Saturday, the artist demonstration features Coeur d’Alene tribal member Leanne Campbell of Plateau Basketry Basics, who is considered a master weaver and works in a variety of mediums including tule, cedar bark, cedar root and hemp.

There also will be videos for papier-mâché art and stained glass art, plus music videos for Super Sparkle’s “Kid’s Not Giving Up” and Windoe’s “Standing Still.”

On Sunday, Kathleen Cavender, a fourth-generation professional artist, will work on an oil painting of clouds on canvas titled “Moving On.” Children can learn how to make tile mosaic art and window art, and music videos for Funky Unkle’s “Stank Face” and Mountains in the Sea’s “Long Way Home” will be featured.

And while there’s nothing like live music, the folks at the MAC have put together playlists on Spotify and Apple Music of songs from previous ArtFest bands you can listen to while browsing the artist gallery. The playlist features songs from Fat Lady, Funky Unkle, Haley Young and the Bossame, Justin James, Musha Marimba, Vanna Oh! and Nick Grow.

“We were trying to figure out how can we support previous musicians,” Dionne said. “Over the years, we’ve had a lot of people, but we wanted to feature people who played last year, so as much as possible, we got them. We reached out to them to find out who had songs on Spotify or Apple Music.”

To complete the ArtFest experience, order in from a local restaurant in lieu of the festival’s food trucks. On its website, the MAC notes that this year, ArtFest is “BYOBG – bring your own beer garden.”

The idea of moving an art festival from Coeur d’Alene Park to a website was of course daunting, but Dionne said after that decision was made, it was easy to get everyone on board, and she thanks the MAC, the participating artists and event sponsors for rallying to make certain ArtFest could celebrate its 35th anniversary.

“To miss that person-to-person experience this year, I felt so strongly that we had to do whatever we could to bring a virtual experience to everyone – the artists and the community,” she said. “And seeing it come together so beautifully, that warms my heart. That makes me very, very happy.

“That is what it’s all about because it’s really important that people understand that the MAC supports art and artists. We’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen. Everybody is struggling right now. Everybody knows that, and we’ll do whatever it takes to bring that experience the best way we can.”

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