For the first time in 48 years, the Annual Art Festival Beth-El – normally held at Temple Beth-El in South Pasadena – will be available online only, through a virtual gallery specifically curated for COVID-19 times.
The juried, invitational art festival, normally only a weekend long, will last from Saturday, January 30, at 12 p.m., through Sunday, February 7 at 5 p.m.
“This will hopefully be the only year we do this,” Ann Sobel, Art Festival Beth-El co-chair, said. “We didn’t think it would be safe with the normal amount of people we have attending.”
A safe bet, considering that the event typically hosts up to 10,000 attendees and anywhere from 150 to 170 galleries from Friday through Sunday. This year the festival has about 65 to 70 artist galleries.
“It’s a new website and we had to input everything manually, so this year we do have a limited number of artists and pieces,” Sobel said. “It’s the artist’s responsibility to ship the artwork down or drive it down, depending on the size of the collection.”
Artists and art buyers can navigate the website free of charge. Dedicated shoppers can pre-pledge a minimum of $500 to become a Purchase Award Patron, and peruse the website a week early, starting on Saturday, January 23.
“We have quite a few patron awards, so we’re hoping for a good turnout despite all the differences this year,” Sobel said.
Instead of a traditional gallery-style event, patrons will navigate through an online hallway of six categories: 2D art, jewelry, glass, ceramics, sculpture and wood.
Through the Artists’ Eyes
Palm Harbor-based artist Joyce Curvin’s papier-mâché recyclable pets may not be the most weighty works in the festival, but in dark times, a colorful wiener dog figurine can help.
“I think initially when the virus happened it was hard to create things that were fun and happy,” Curvin said. “I have to be happy when creating these and it was such a strange time, so there was a lot of refocusing.”
Her work will be featured in the Beth-El festival for the eighth year in a row, but Curvin, like many of the other artists, is new to the world of virtual showings.
“It’s a weird time for everything, and my work doesn’t photograph as well as just seeing it in real life,’’ the artist said. “But I would do anything for the festival and the people who run it. It’s just always a fabulous time.”
All the way in River Falls, Wisconsin, Douglas Sigwarth, co-artist with his wife, Renee, at Sigwarth Glass Studio, is for once, not preparing for a south-bound trip to the festival.
“This is a complicated issue. On one hand, we as artists prefer to sell our work one on one for that face-to-face connection,” Sigwarth said. “The connection is kind of the draw, but we’re thrilled that the show can go on.”
Sigwarth has been entering glass blown vessels, wall mounts and sculptural pieces to Beth-El for the past six years.
“The best way to describe what happened this year is that we had to pivot, and we had to pivot fast,” Sigwarth said. “The website was always something that we’re going to get to eventually.”
Get in on the virtual gallery action, early or not, at artfestivalbethel.com.