Westerly’s Virtu Art Festival, among the largest art festivals in the region, has now been scheduled for late August, after being postponed earlier because of the coronavirus.

Lisa Konicki, president of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the event, said the festival will comply with all coronavirus related regulations and will be held August 22-23 in Wilcox Park.

Initially scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend, it was canceled as Rhode Island shutdown major outdoor events in its initial phases of coping with COVID-19.

The Wickford Art Festival, which fills the village’s streets with artists and is held in early July, canceled earlier this year, and the 54th annual Scituate Art Festival, scheduled for Columbus Day weekend, also canceled.

Konicki, who held a virtual art festival to help struggling artists, has seized upon new phase 3 regulations that allow for larger crowds outdoors, and will hold the festival, following state guidelines.

That means required social distancing, limited number of visitors inside each exhibit, and none of the usual food and music events that are associated with the festival. 

The festival always featured a “Creation Station” for kids, which will now be changed, Konicki said, to likely developing a take-home kit for children.

But the main event – the art – will be on display. Typically, the festival would hold all its activities, including all artists’ exhibits, within one acre. But to accommodate for appropriate social distancing, Konicki said, the chamber will use the park’s 14 acres.

Wilcox Park is among Westerly’s and Rhode Island’s treasures, an oasis of gardens, ponds, and bucolic walkways.  The artists booths will now be spread throughout the park.

When the festival was announced in the spring, before it was initially shutdown, it advertised that it expected some 140 artists. Konicki said the chamber has started reaching out to artists who had initially planned to exhibit. Some artists, however, will be prevented from participating because they would be coming from states with a high infection rate.

Konicki said the chamber refunded artists their exhibitor’s fees following the festival’s cancellation in May. Artists wishing to exhibit should contact the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce at 401-596-7761 or info@oceanchamber.org.

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Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal. Prosnitz began his journalism career as a sportswriter at the Asbury Park (NJ) Press, moving to The News Tribune (Woodbridge, NJ), before joining the Providence Journal. Prosnitz hosts the Morning Show on WLBQ radio (Westerly), 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, and It’s Your Business, also on WBLQ, Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Prosnitz has twice won Best in Business Awards from the national Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW), twice was named Media Advocate of the Year by the Small Business Administration, won an investigative reporter’s award from the New England Press Association, and newswriting award from the Rhode Island Press Association.