Where art thou, Artfest?

This piece, from last years Artfest was by Betsy Oliver 21.

Jacob Harris '21

This piece, from last year’s Artfest was by Betsy Oliver ’21.

Eva McCord '21, Supervising Editor

Where Art Thou, ArtFest?

A once bustling display room filled with color and community now dark and empty. Senior boards, commemorating graduating art students’ dedication to their craft, invisible to the public eye. Pieces left untouched, unphotographed and unseen.

This is the reality for South’s annual ArtFest, a school-wide cherished tradition originally scheduled for Wednesday, March 25th through Saturday, March 28th. ArtFest was officially canceled on Thursday, April 23rd in an announcement from the 2020 Facebook page. ArtFest joins the multitude of other events and celebrations impacted by the spread of COVID-19; however, unlike a canceled game or tournament season, ArtFest served as the primary event exclusively highlighting the accomplishments and efforts of the South art department, and the only event throughout the year in which students could show their work to an audience of their peers, teachers and the community.

“There is no football game for art. There is no big competition,” Anna Johnson ’21 said. “ArtFest means an opportunity to show everybody what I put my entire life and mind into– this is our chance to show what [artists] can do.”

Johnson fears that the cancellation of ArtFest will threaten the chances of new artists entering the public realm, with the event oftentimes the first chance underclassmen and students new to art entirely are able to display their work publicly in a gallery setting.

“Without that push in the right direction, we could lose talented artists,” Johnson said. “Artists need experiences like this in order to be exposed to the possibilities and opportunities available to them in the art world.”
Art department chair Thomas Szmrecsanyi echoed Johnson’s sentiments, while also touching upon the losses and disappointments of artists in the senior class, who have found themselves unable to use their final ArtFest to commemorate their progress and growth during their time at South.

“I think there is also a residual effect for underclassmen who may build their interest and confidence from one year to the next,” Szmrecsanyi said. “[And] it is particularly difficult for our seniors who would be displaying larger collections of work or portfolios. They are at the pinnacle of their high school achievement and do not have another year at South to make up for this lost opportunity.”

In a world where the label of “an artist” can cause contention for young creators– such as if their art is “good enough” to qualify themselves as possessing the very title– art students at South look upon ArtFest as an opportunity to receive the credit for their efforts they deserve and earned.

“As a former South Art student myself, I remember how it felt to have that experience – the feeling of being an artist,” Szmrecsanyi said. “ArtFest is a truly authentic experience.”

In an attempt to still honor the art department and their hard work throughout the year, Anna Abundis ’20 has begun sharing the new hashtag #gpsartfest2020 on Instagram as a way to give art students recognition of their accomplishments, as well as still allow non-art students and community members a way to see final pieces, projects, and portfolios.

“What we’re all going to miss is putting ourselves out there and both telling and showing the world who we are as artists,” Abundis said. “There’s no replacing it.”