Fairhope prepares for arts celebrations

Arts and Crafts Festival and Outdoor Art Show start April 30


FAIRHOPE – After cancelations last year and a postponement in 2021, preparations are moving forward for Fairhope’s two art celebrations to start April 30.

The Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival and Eastern Shore Art Center’s Outdoor Art Show will take place in downtown Fairhope from April 30 to May 2.

Fairhope Mayor Sherry Sullivan said residents and merchants are ready for the celebration to resume.

“They're ready to get back to normal,” Sullivan said. “It's good for the merchants. It's good for the people downtown. It's good for our economy.”

On Thursday, April 1, the poster art for the 2021 festival was displayed at an event at the downtown Fairhope Clock.

The painting by Fairhope artist Judi Oxford shows a Mobile Bay pier at sunset framed by an outline of the state of Alabama. The work also includes a camellia blossom, the state flower. A yellowhammer, the state bird, is in a branch framing the image.

This year, the festival will be limited to Alabama artists in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19. The painting reflects that the festival will be an Alabama celebration, Oxford said.

“What they wanted to portray this year was Arts and Crafts was just the state of Alabama, only artists from the state of Alabama,” Oxford said. “So, because it's just featuring the state artists, they wanted to have the state flower on there. It has to show that it's only state of Alabama artists. It has to show the state flower on it and the yellowhammer, but yet, it's in Fairhope. So, this is what I came up with.”

Oxford said she was pleased to be selected to paint the artwork for this year’s festival. Her family’s connection to the festival goes back decades. Her mother, Rae Bernhardt Jackson, was chairwoman of the festival for two years in the 1980s.

“I grew up Fairhope. I moved away for some years when I married after college. My mother was an artist, and she was very active in Fairhope. She was chairman, actually, of Arts and Crafts for two years. She was in it at the beginning of it and all through it and worked really hard on it,” Oxford said. “She's passed away now, but it's an honor for me to get to do it. I wish she could be here to enjoy this.”

About 90 artists will take part in the festival this year, down from about 230 that have taken part in the past. Vicky Cook, festival co-chairwoman, said having fewer artists will allow for more social distancing.

“That way it will cover the same space that we normally do,” Cook said. “We're trying to be safer. We're not having the same entertainment that we've had in the past. We're just trying to keep it open.”

Sullivan said that while some people might want to have a larger show, the limits will allow the event to take place with safety precautions in place.

“I think we're doing the right thing about moving along with a reduced show with all the safety things in place, masking and hand-sanitizing stations and everything,” Sullivan said.

She said the event has booked all available spaces and has a waiting list. Other precautions include eliminating entertainment stages and other areas where visitors might gather.

“We're going to spread them out and not do the things that we normally do that would encourage gathering, not having the entertainment stage, not doing the artists dinner, again, trying to put all those safeguards in place so we can do this safely and give people a chance to be here,” Sullivan said.

The Outdoor Art Show is also ready to resume, Adrianne Crow, marketing director for the Eastern Shore Art Center, said. She said the show, which will also be in downtown Fairhope at the same time at the festival, will have fewer artists as well in an effort to promote social distancing

“We usually do 130 artists and this year, we're going to do 80 to 90 artists,” Clow said. “So things will be a little more spread apart this year.”

She said artists are eager to get back to displaying their work.

“I've had artists asking if we're still taking applications. I'd love to apply.' I've actually had to turn people down because we had a waiting list going for a while. It's been a good response,” Clow said. “The artists, they're so happy that we're having this festival. They've had a rough year, to say the least.”