Scituate Art Festival considers virtual show to continue grants

Scituate Art Festival considers virtual show to continue grants

SCITUATE – While the final coat of paint dries at the Scituate Congregational Church, the green across the street that houses the Scituate Art Festival will remain empty this year as the fall fundraising event is shelved.

“My whole mission all these years working on the committee was to get the church restored for the day of the event,” said Scituate Art Festival Committee President Paul Leveillee.

“This year, it’s finally done, the steeple, the weathervane, the paint, and no event,” he said.

The Scituate Art Festival Committee announced in July that with a “heavy heart” the 54th annual festival in October would be called off.

A virtual festival option, where vendors can publish work and sell wares online, is being considered. Leveillee said the Art Festival Committee is still trying to cross that bridge and figure out if it is feasible to hold a virtual show.

If the festival goes virtual, Leveillee said, it could still charge vendors to showcase wares, using the revenue to continue to fund grants and repairs at the church.

“As we’re all finding out, virtual is tough,” he said. The committee is trying to work out logistics for the event, including how much vendors should pay and how to set it up.

“It is what it is. Right now, we have plans to have a festival next year. Of course, if you told me this would happen last year, I wouldn’t believe it,” he said. Committee members gave vendors who already paid to participate in the 2020 event the option to put the money toward next year or have it refunded.

Leveillee said around 70 percent of vendors opted to let the festival keep it for next year’s show.

“So the fees are still here. The show is still going to be as crowded as always next year,” he said.

The decision to cancel came after the board could only come up with three courses of action: hold a smaller festival with social distancing measures, hold one virtually, or hold nothing at all. When it came down to it, Leveillee said, it would be impossible to mitigate health risks with such a highly populated event.

The first thing Leveillee thought about when the Art Festival was canceled was how to keep funding repairs for the church and contributions to other local organizations.

He said the festival’s mission since 1967 is to maintain the historic church, and the committee would like to still award grants to some non-profits.

Each year, around $20,000 in grants goes back to town groups.

After looking at traffic mitigation, separated booths, and a distanced food court area, he said the decision came down to port-a-potties. The biggest risk for the health and safety for festival-goers came from the area most likely for people to come in contact with, he said.

“There was no way for me to safely sanitize and make them available to people coming to the event,” Leveillee said. “Everyone agrees it’s the right decision, we’re just disappointed the show has to be canceled.”

Leveillee said committee members watched as staple events across New England began to be called off, and slowly realized it would be the same for the Scituate Art Festival.

When Woonsocket canceled Autumnfest in late June, he said he knew it was over.

“There are more than 30,000 people a day coming in through Scituate. Even if we could control it, there are too many opportunities for this to fail and add to the pandemic,” Leveillee said.

He added that he is “not an extremist, but 190,000 people are dead.”