The last time the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces hosted an event was November 2019, when it held the Chastain Park Fall Arts Festival in Buckhead.
Since then the foundation, a nonprofit that annually hosts arts festivals in metro Atlanta and Dallas, Texas, has had to cancel all of its events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Needless to say, when Randall Fox, the organization’s vice president/development, found out he could host the Chastain Park Spring Arts Festival May 15 and 16, thanks to some state and local outbreak-related restrictions being lifted, he was thrilled.
“Everyone’s excited – I think not only the artists but the community and the neighbors,” said Fox, who thanked Ebony Barley Carswell, the city of Atlanta’s director of special events, for making it happen. “(She) has gone out of her way to communicate with us and to really find a positive way to bring this back effectively. I applaud her and her team for making this work.”
Artist Jennifer Humphrey added, “I’m ecstatic. The majority of my income comes from doing festivals, so it has definitely been a hard year. … I can’t wait to get back out there and interact with people again and have opportunities to make a living for myself.”
Open May 15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and May 16 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the 13th annual festival will have free admission with food, drink and art for sale.
It will include 125 artists, down from the usual 175 to allow for social distancing. Also, masks will be required (though Fox said that could change based on the city possibly relaxing some rules soon due to the vaccine’s rollout and a recent reduction in COVID cases), and social distancing and hand washing will be encouraged.
“We’re just asking people to continue those practices,” Fox said.
The festival will once again have a food court with gourmet food trucks serving a variety of items, tables will be spread out more than normal to allow for social distancing and attendees can remove their masks while eating and drinking.
“We’ll have a staff that’s constantly cleaning high-use areas,” Fox said. “This will require a little extra staffing on our end, so we just ask everyone to work together on this.”
Another change is there will be no live music at the festival, but Fox said he hopes musicians can return at events later this year as more restrictions are possibly lifted.
The past year and a half have been hard both for the foundation, which Fox said has had zero revenue, and the artists it serves.
“We’ve been basically closed for a year and a half,” he said.
The Chastain spring event was named one of the Nation’s Top 100 (67) Arts Festivals Nationwide by Sunshine Artist magazine. Humphrey, a Lawrenceville, has been an artist since 2007 and has had her works displayed and sold at this festival since 2011.
“It is a very beautiful neighborhood, a very supportive community,” she said. “And it is a larger festival, so it is nice to see the different varieties of artists and craftsmen that are there.”
Humphrey, who started her career as an artist making high-end, boutique-style baby clothes, has pivoted to making embroidery magnets and tea towels because of the pandemic.
“I’ve switched to (making) something more accessible or affordable, something that has a broader audience and a lower price point, to be honest,” she said.
Humphrey and Fox said they hope the community will come to the festival in droves.
“I would just encourage people to come out and support local artists,” Fox said. “They’ve been struggling and were one of the hardest-hit groups. These are independent, self-employed individuals.”
Humphrey added, “I’m just grateful to the festival promoters and the city for doing everything they could to get us back on track and to do so as safely as they can. I know a lot of us wanted this to happen a lot sooner, and some are too scared to get out there right now, and I understand that. But I’m just grateful to have these opportunities again.”
The park is located at 4469 Stella Drive in Atlanta. For more information on the festival, visit chastainparkartsfestival.com.