By Tom Katzenmeyer
Dear Columbus Community:
The decision we share with you today is one of the single most difficult and heartbreaking we’ve ever had to make at the Greater Columbus Arts Council. Early this morning the Arts Council board of trustees voted to cancel the 2020 Columbus Arts Festival, formerly scheduled for June 12-14.
As much as we desperately want to go on as planned, we recognize that we must put the health and safety of our patrons, artists, performers, vendors and sponsors first. As we’ve watched the COVID-19 pandemic unfold, with all the uncertainty it holds for the near future, we could not in good conscience hold a festival that would bring artists and visitors from 38 states and four countries, and more than 500,000 people within close proximity to each other on the downtown riverfront.
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. Sadly, it simply cannot be helped. We must put the health, safety and well being of people first.
For the people who create the Arts Festival this is heartbreaking because producing the Festival is a labor of love that brings us great joy each year. There is an energy on the Festival site as the tents begin to open and the public starts to pour in that is like happiness condensed. It comes from families slowly making their way through the site, and eating a meal together while watching a free performance. It comes from groups of young friends taking a photo with the Scioto deer as they make their way, laughing, to food trucks and a concert under the stars. It comes from volunteers, who come back every year, and greet folks with a smile.
I will miss this energy. I will miss these people. I will miss being a part of this experience, and yes, I will miss fresh lemonade shake ups. But we made this decision to ensure that we all remain healthy and able to enjoy all these wonderful experiences at next year’s Arts Festival. And that is where I have my heart set.
We are grateful to our Presenting Sponsor the American Electric Power Foundation, Bank of America, CoverMyMeds, Huntington, IGS and others whose financial assistance remains in place to begin to plan for the 2021 Festival.
We are grateful to the group of outstanding artists our jury chose for the 2020 Arts Festival and have committed to this same selection of artists next year, removing the need for them to go through another jury process for a spot they have already earned. And we are grateful to our sponsors, community partners and vendors whose partnership we value deeply.
We look forward to working with you all once we have moved past this global crisis and making many happy memories together again June 11-13, 2021.
The author is President & CEO of the Greater Columbus Arts Council.