Cubist painter Marcel Duchamp said that art serves as the missing link between the unseen.
As COVID-19 cases skyrocket in Greenville, the city’s flagship festival, Artisphere, must go to even greater lengths in bridging the visible and invisible this year.
“What makes Artisphere and other art shows like it around the country so special is having an opportunity to meet the artists and see the work in person, and talk to the artist about the work and, you know, build that relationship,” said Kerry Murphy, executive director of the festival. “Lots of times that leads to that connection and desire to purchase a piece from a particular artist.”
On Aug. 21-23, the festival — which made a $9.1 million economic impact last year — will launch for the first time online. Murphy expects the event continue to draw virtual visitors if not physical guests to Greenville’s art community.
As the Artisphere committee announced the move last week following escalating COVID-19 cases in the region, details on broadcast of the festival’s visual, performance, culinary and musical line-up remain in flux, but Murphy hopes to keep the channel of communication open between the artists and art-lovers.
“The focus is to create opportunities for engaging experiences for our patrons and to showcase the artists and their work, and try to create engaging experiences for the artists, whether that’s Zoom calls or they’re doing demonstrations live on our social media channels or perhaps we even pre-record some video that lives on YouTube channels and on our website,” Murphy said.
Initially, the festival committee aspired to host a hybrid model that mixed both in-person and virtual events to enforce smaller crowds and social distancing, but the past few week’s influx of cases and hospitalization rates doused those plans. Up to 90% of the artists had still planned on participating in the event.
Without revenue streaming in from drink and in-person retail sales, Murphy knows that the event’s bottom-line will take a hit, but with 80% of the funding sourced from fundraising, grants and sponsorship, she’s confident the event can bridge a gap into more certain times.
“It’s evolving, but we’re committed to creating something meaningful for both the artists and patrons,” she said. “We are learning more and more every day.”