Ready to return: Carmel International Arts Festival is back after one-year hiatus


Carmel International Arts Festival Executive Director Rachel Ferry describes the energy surrounding the 2021 event as extraordinarily high following a one-year hiatus.

The 2020 festival was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The (artists) that are coming are so excited to be back in Carmel and have an in-person festival,” Ferry said. “What the pandemic did across the country for people was obviously devastating. A lot of these artists rely on festivals for their main source of income, so without any festivals last year artists took a hard hit. Some of them didn’t recover and weren’t able to continue on with their business and had to find different ventures to support their families, so we’re excited to offer this opportunity to come back.”

Approximately 100 artists will have exhibits at the Sept. 25-26 Carmel International Arts Festival in the Carmel Arts & Design District. The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 25 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 26. Ferry said the number of artists – 130 — is slightly lower than the usual number.

“We had close to that commit, but because of the COVID strains in parts of the country, some artists have not felt comfortable to travel,” Ferry said. “So, they are not participating, but we do hope they will be back in 2022.”

CIAF will be Carmel jewelry artist Mark Grosser’s 15th art fair of 2021.

“We normally do about 25 a year,” said Grosser, who owns M. Grosser Jewelry Design. “We’ll probably finish out with 20 this year.”

It’s quite a change from 2020, when Grosser attended only five festivals.

“All the shows we’ve been to have been pretty well attended,” he said. “Carmel has always been one of our better shows. We like doing a local show, and sometimes it brings people to the store. It’s the only show we do in the state of Indiana.”

With help from website programmers, Grosser set up a selling platform for art fair artists in late 2020. He said customers still prefer to touch and feel jewelry and listen to artists describe how the piece was developed.

Wood artist Mark Waninger, who lives in Jamestown, considers CIAF his local show and has participated in the previous seven festivals. Waninger said he has participated in art festivals all across the United States and that Carmel is one of his favorites.

“It is so exciting for me as an artist to see this show’s continued growth and the overall elevation in the quality of the art available for patrons to choose from,” he said. “It really is an international art festival. This is only happening as a result of the purchases made by attendees. The impact of COVID was significant for all professions, and it was especially devastating to artists who rely on the personal connections made at festivals like this for the sale of their work.”

Fishers painter Anna Afshar has been a CIAF participant six times.

“Having art festivals again in general, and CIAF especially, is very important,” Afshar said. “I survived the pandemic year without events through customers/commissions/connections I acquired through previous festivals. CIAF is my home base with lots of following, so in addition to selling my existing work and possibly getting commissions/sales in the future, I am simply looking forward to seeing familiar faces and friends.

“Based on the turnout at Penrod (Sept. 11 in Broad Ripple), people are eager to get out and support the arts, and it’s so wonderful.”

Noblesville painter Randall Scott Harden, whose art is featured at Carmel Art on Main, agreed art lovers are eager to view the work.

“Hopefully, they’ll be out to buy,” Harden said.

CIAF will be Harden’s 10th festival of 2021, all in the Midwest. In 2020, he only participated in one small art fair in Michigan.

“I had to transition from art fairs to doing virtual stuff (for artwork),” Harden said. “There were not as many classes, also.”

Westfield painter Sylvia Gray is a regular CIAF participant.

“This is a busy month for me, as I am participating in three art fairs,” Gray said. “I was at Penrod Arts Fair and am happy to be a runner-up for Best in Show,” Gray said.

Gray found one small positive from 2020.

“It was slow last year. However, it gave me time to create new artworks,” she said.

Safety measures set

With the event being outdoors, Carmel International Arts Festival Executive Director Rachel Ferry isn’t too concerned about attendees being at risk of spreading COVID-19.

Ferry said face masks will be available for anyone who wants one. Hand sanitizer will be placed throughout the festival along with hand-washing stations near restrooms.

Ferry said there will be social distance space between tents.

“Because of the amazing things Carmel has done with the bump-outs on Main Street, it allows us to spread it out a little more,” Ferry said. “I feel like it’s going to be a great layout to have a safe festival.”

The Art Rocks III concert from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Sept. 25 will feature Blair Clark and The Fun Factor on the main stage, which will be south of the Arts & Design District on Range Line Road. Entertainment is scheduled throughout the day at the main stage and west stage on Main Street.

Ferry watched as Carmel Artmobilia had a successful return Aug. 28 in the Arts & Design District.

“People in Carmel are excited and ready to be supportive of extraordinary events,” Ferry said.

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