The Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture’s annual ArtFest is back in person after pandemic-related closures in 2020 and 2021.
The festival, Spokane’s largest juried art and fine craft fair, returned Friday to the MAC’s campus, 2316 W. First Ave., where it began 37 years ago. Previous events have been held in Coeur d’Alene Park, located just a couple blocks south of the museum.
ArtFest is 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday. Museum hours will be extended until 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday but will maintain normal hours on Sunday.
“I’ve been walking around all day and listening to the artists talk to customers and it’s just so darn fun,” said Betsy Godlewski, development director at the MAC. “The pandemic changed a lot of things, and I think people have a greater appreciation for being face to face.”
Weather conditions at ArtFest were a little chaotic with storm clouds, rain, thunder and sunshine making sporadic appearances throughout Friday afternoon. Heavy rain and thunder rolled in at about 5:45 p.m. The National Weather Service forecasted a cool and wet weekend in Spokane with chances of thunderstorms on Sunday.
But the uneven weather was nothing unusual for ArtFest organizers who have endured far worse conditions in previous years.
“This has been good weather,” Godlewski said. “It’s springtime in the Northwest and we are happy to be here. This is a gift to our community, and we are happy to provide it again.”
Several dozen artists displayed their artwork under tents on the MAC’s front lawn, with musical performances at the MAC’s small amphitheater
The focus of the event each year is to provide the Inland Northwest with a juried art fair and marketplace for artists to showcase their art and crafts , including painting, sculpture, jewelry, photography, among others. All ArtFest sales support the artists directly.
For artists like Andrea Evarts, of Council, Idaho, ArtFest is a welcome change after two years of pandemic restrictions.
“I really rely on shows. That’s 95% of my (business), is doing shows,” said Evarts, who was selling jewelry from under a covered booth for her fifth year. Online sales were difficult, she said, because “you can’t connect with your customers.”
She started exploring other art festivals that were not in states with as many restrictions, such as Colorado, she said. However, her schedule is beginning to fill up for 2022.
The difficulties of the last two years forced a lot of artists to do what they do best: get creative.
“It allowed me to pick a different medium, stylistically,” said Jenny Armitage, a watercolor artist from Salem, Oregon. “Everyone tried to make their own lemonade.”
Like Evarts, Armitage also looked for art festivals out of state.
Laura Koppes, a painter from Portland, Oregon, started selling her art at farmers markets during the last two years. She was at the last in-person ArtFest in 2019.
“Everyone here just seems to be back and happy,” Koppes said.