Suburban art fairs return in altered form as physically distanced 'art walks'
It was early 2020 and festival organizer Amy Amdur's year was shaping up. The founder and president of the Highland Park-based Amdur Productions, a company that has produced regional art festivals for 37 years, already had 24 shows confirmed for the year.
"We were calling it a 'year of perfect vision,'" she said. "That didn't quite turn out."
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, some venues, such as the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, postponed their events until 2021. Others, including Northbrook's Art in the Park, Arlington Heights' Promenade of Art and Chicago's Gold Coast Art Fair, migrated online.
But after Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Phase 4 guidelines to reopen the state, Amdur decided to re-imagine those festivals as scaled-back events like art walks.
While artists and attendees will be limited, the revised art walks will help support artists whose living depends upon festivals.
The phrase "starving artist" is especially resonant now, Amdur said. Unlike business owners who received grants to keep them afloat, artists haven't been so fortunate.
"I would hope that people who attend might be open to the idea of purchasing something," Amdur said. "These artists are micro-businesses ... They need to sell their art."
Amdur and her colleagues intend to help them do so while following protocols established by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Those include: mandatory face coverings and timed admission, single-direction travel, hand-sanitizing stations and the elimination of live entertainment, kids' activities, refreshments and high-touch areas including all tables and chairs.
"What we're looking to do here is artful, mindful, socially distanced art walks," Amdur said.
Attendees will enter and exit from specific locations. Artists' booths will be spaced 10 feet apart and only one person or family/friend group will be allowed inside a booth at a time. Shoppers may not touch or try on merchandise before they purchase it, and all purchases will be cashless via credit or debit card.
Although admission is free, attendees must register in advance via Eventbrite.com or on AmdurProductions.com for an assigned entry time. However, walk-ins may be accommodated depending on the crowd size, which will be limited according to state guidelines.
Exhibits reflect a variety of mediums including painting, sculpture, photography, jewelry, furniture and fashion ranging from $25 to $2,500. For those unable to attend, handcrafted works by artists participating in the shows are available for purchase at Artzipper.com, according to Amdur.
One advantage is the art walks are outdoors, Amdur says.
"There is space. Exhibits are 10 to 15 feet apart, the aisles are wide and everyone's going the same way," she said.
Amdur describes the events as restorative.
"With or without COVID-19, what makes this special is the art," Amdur said. "Art has a way of healing the soul."
While these art walks will look different from previous events, Amdur says they will offer a semblance of "normal" during challenging times.
"It really will make a difference to people's lives," she said.
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Suburban art walks
Here's a partial list of upcoming suburban art walks:
• Lincolnshire Art Walk, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 15-16, at 100 Village Green, Lincolnshire. The 23rd annual fair features 25 artists. Free admission. Register for one-hour time slots at lincolnshireartfestival.com.
• Evanston Art and Big Fork Festival, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 22-23, at 800 Church St., Evanston. The seventh annual event features 25 artists. Free admission. Register for one-hour time slots at evanstonartfestival.com.
• Port Clinton Art Festival, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 29-30, at 1700 St. Johns Ave., Highland Park. Fifty artists will showcase their work at the 37th annual event, which will also be held virtually. Free admission. Complimentary parking is available in the East Metra Lot on St. Johns Avenue. Register for one-hour time slots or attend virtually at amdurproductions.com/event/port-clinton-art-festival-2020/.
• Barrington Art Festival, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 12-13, at Cook and Station streets, Barrington. Works by 60 artists will be featured during the 11th annual event. Free admission. Register at barringtonartfestival.com.
• Wheaton Art Walk, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 10-11, at Front and Main streets, Wheaton. The inaugural event features 50 artists. Free admission. Register at wheatonartwalk.com.
• Glencoe Festival of Art, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 17-18, at 700 Vernon Ave., Glencoe. This marks Glencoe's 12th annual event. Free admission. Register at glencoefestivalofart.com.
• High-risk individuals or those with special circumstances may attend from 9-10 a.m.
• Safety precautions will be in place, including physical distancing, mandatory face coverings, hand-sanitizing stations, cashless payment, single-direction paths and no handling of merchandise before purchase.
• Attendees must register in advance at eventbrite.com to secure an admission time, although walk-ups may be allowed entry depending on the crowd size.