Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts
Goes Virtual

By Noah Nelson

Festival Coordinator Selena Jones discusses challenges presented by new digital format

Community, wellbeing, and art; these are the values being fostered by the Lakewood Center for the Arts as they work to adjust to a new social environment based around COVID-19. How do you promote these values in a virtual world, and how do you make sure that this virtual world is accessible to everyone? These questions and more are being tackled by the Artistic Development and Festival Coordinator of the 57th Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts, Selena Jones.

The Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts is, under normal, non-pandemic circumstances, an annual event held in June that aims to celebrate creation, foster community, and educate about the importance of the arts in society. Due to COVID-19 and the public safety requirements that accompany the virus, the festival has been converted into a more spread out series of socially-distant events that will be held all throughout summer and fall of 2020.

Jones has plans of hosting The Open Show Exhibition sometime in October, if safety allows. The Open Show is the largest, non-juried art exhibition in the Pacific Northwest, and it features both established and up-and-coming artists from all over the world. This exhibition is a major event within the overall festival, and will be held in a condensed, one-day event instead of the traditional three-day format.

Along with visual artists, The Open Show stage is welcome to dancers, poets, musicians, and many other kinds of performance artists. These performers help to balance out the entire exhibition, and also help support the idea that art is so much more than just paint on a canvas. Jones emphasized the idea that art is about communication, and stated that there are endless mediums that can be used to communicate emotion. The inclusion of performance arts aims to further illustrate that point. 

The Open Show is just one of many events all contained by the greater Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts. Other events include The Special Exhibit, Artist’s Vision, and Art in the Park, all of which are juried showings, as opposed to The Open Show. 

As a process, jurying involves artists submitting their work to a jury. These jurors are selected artists, curators, appraisers, or otherwise experts in their given field or medium. This jury will decide which artists meet the required criteria for the showing, and eventually decide who will be invited to present their work at a given showing.

In lieu of not being able to hold many in-person events for this year’s festival, Jones is spearheading a new project that is aimed towards fostering connection and community within the arts. 

“We are developing an intimate artist talk series that will allow for very small groups of people to meet an artist and explore their artistic process and concepts,” Jones said.

This series will allow artists and patrons of the arts to meet and connect with each other in a time where face-to-face connection is rather limited. Despite the obvious drawbacks of social distancing guidelines, this series may be able to use them to their advantage.

A general Q&A with an artist can be difficult when there are a hundred people all clamoring to get their questions answered. However, this series will allow very small groups, possibly only five or six people, to sit down with an artist and really dive into their creative process with a more focused and in depth conversation. 

Finding a genuine human connection can be tough sometimes, but one of the goals of this festival is to foster such relationships. For example, Jones reminisced about a former festival curator who met his now wife at one of the festivals.

This story is just one out of thousands, if not millions, of connections made through these art exhibitions and events. Jones discussed how some of the artists who travel from showing to showing are a bit like a family. And amid COVID-19, that family has been disbanded.

This is the main challenge presented to Jones, but it is being addressed head on, “Our strategy now is to develop video content to help explore artwork that would benefit from closer inspections. For instance, a video of sculptural forms, like pottery or glasswork, could use a video to circle the artwork, and even pick it up or show it in someone’s hands. Even seeing someone holding a piece will communicate a lot of the weight, texture, fragility of the work.”

By utilizing video content, Jones is hoping to bring physical mediums to life in a non-physical world, while at the same time, fostering community and connection between artists and patrons of the arts.

When your life and career are based around human connections, it can be very difficult to adjust to this new virtual world. People are worried about their jobs, their income, not being able to see their family and friends, and people on average report feeling more lonely and less motivated. For all of these reasons and more, it is incredibly important for us to do everything we can to promote community, connection, and wellbeing. 

At the end of the day, these are the goals of the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts. By using art as a method of communicating, we can try to stay connected in a world that aims to keep us apart.