AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Arts in the Heart, the latest event to be canceled due to coronavirus. It means about a $1.7 million hit to the local economy.
“We would be asked to be socially distanced at the festival and our festival just doesn’t work that way. Even though we space the artists’ booths more and we made it more for our attendees, it was not going to be socially distanced,” said Brenda Durant, Executive Director of the Greater Augusta Arts Council.
Arts in the Heart is packed every year but artists aren’t the only ones who will feel the pinch of not having the craft celebration.
“We have three very busy days, it’s hectic. It gets crowded in here. Like I said, we always look forward to it, all the customers and all the food. All the art and everything. It’s great,” said Michael Weldon, owner of Psychotronic Records.
Karis Melchior, an employee at Artsy Me said, “I completely understand like why it’s canceled just because we need to protect the public and things like that. But I hate it for our artists and the money that it brings. And the enjoyment everyone gets from it.”
Mayor Hardie Davis released a statement on the cancellation that read, “For 39 years the Greater Augusta Arts Council has provided individuals and families from across the nation and internationally, a celebration of varied arts and cultural diversity that make up Augusta, during the Arts in the Heart of Augusta Festival. After months of thoughtful and deliberate planning and preparation, the City of Augusta and I fully support the decision to cancel the 2020 festival and look forward to working together to make the 2021 festival the most impactful ever.”
“People that are just interested in art tend to flood down here so our clientele is full down here those days,” said Melchior.
Weldon added, “The best thing that happens during Arts in the Heart is that we do a lot of business. My wife always comes and sets up in a tent out front and sells jewelry that she makes so we have a good time.”
The Greater Augusta Arts Council originally thought positive COVID-19 cases would go down by the end of summer. But due to the recent spike, they are not taking the risk. All of the artists involved with Arts and in the Heart will get a refund.
Brenda Durant/Executive Director, Greater Augusta Arts Council:
“We will take a giant hit on our budget, over $100,000 will be lost for our budget this year. And so, we’re looking at ways. Of course, we’ll take donations and sponsors. Of course, we’ll be planning some fundraisers throughout our fiscal year,” explained Durant.
She added they hope to have a sculpture festival in downtown Augusta in November. The fine arts and crafts market will also be online to alleviate some of those financial pains.