200507ind ArtFile

A crowd of people check out artwork on display during last year’s Wickford Arts Festival. Earlier this week, organizers officially canceled this year’s event as it appears unlikely ongoing coronavirus restrictions on crowd size will be lifted in time for the summer.

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. – Organizers of the Wickford Art Festival announced this week that the annual festival has been canceled because of COVID-19 related restrictions on crowd sizes.

The Wickford Art Association had planned to hold its 58th annual art festival July 11 and 12. It’s the association’s largest and most anticipated event of the year.

It’s also one of several large events around the state that have been shelved in recent days, along with South Kingstown’s Memorial Day parade and the Newport Folk and Jazz festivals.

“The cancellation of the Wickford Art Festival will not only adversely impact our active creative community, who will lose a major opportunity for exposure of their work, direct sales to collectors and other vendors, and networking potential with artists across the region and nation, but the association itself, which has grown to depend on the festival as a major fund-raising initiative,” WAA Gallery Director Catherine Gagnon said.

“In facing the current COVID-19 crisis, the great news is that our artists are resilient and while 2020 is sure to test the resourcefulness of artists across the world, it is the nature and spirit of creators to turn adversity into positive output,” Gagnon said.

Held every summer since 1962 on the weekend after the Fourth of July at the height of summer in historic Wickford, more than 60,000 people typically attend the festival, along with 200 artists.

The festival is always free, while attendees get to explore a full spectrum of fine art, meet artists from across the state, region and country and buy one of a kind pieces.

First time festival director Ainslie Daly said organizers will brainstorm ways to showcase the accepted artists for this year’s festival virtually.

“As putting together an art festival on some sort of virtual platform will not replicate the experience of being at the event in July, and the ability to see a piece of work up close and being inspired to purchase art that speaks to you, we hope to come up with a new creative way to support the artists on digital platform as well as come up a way to help raise funds to support the Wickford Art Association to ensure the festival will be able to happen next year,” Daly said.

The nonprofit Wickford Art Association has more than 450 members from Rhode Island and New England. The association hosts art shows and classes in its North Kingstown gallery and has produced the festival every July since 1962.  

Also this week, South Kingstown’s planning committee for the annual South Kingstown Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony announced the cancellation of the parade portion of the annual event due to mandated COVID-19 restrictions on large public events.

The traditional post-parade Memorial Ceremony and Wreath Laying Service at the Saugatucket Park

Veterans Monument will be carried out by members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 916, and

Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 325, to honor the memory of all United States military personnel who died while serving in the Armed Forces.

The same group will also carry out the annual wreath laying ceremonies at the Civil War Memorial in Riverside Cemetery, the Hazard War Memorial Monument at Hazard School and at the Vietnam Memorial Park at Dale Carlia Corner.

Parade Committee Chair and Vietnam veteran Steve Stewart of VFW Post 916 said the committee is planning to livestream the Saugatucket Park Ceremony on Memorial Day, and the public is invited to attend virtually. An announcement on the program details and how to access the livestream event will be made in the coming weeks.

“We are living in difficult times but no matter how challenging this time may be, we must never forget the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives in service to our great country,” Stewart said. “We will remember and honor them this year just like we have done every year.”

North Kingstown did not respond by press deadline to confirm if its observances would take place. The town typically holds a parade and wreath laying on Memorial Day.

In Narragansett, events surrounding Memorial Day are not currently on the town’s schedule.

“At this juncture, we do not have any official town plans for Memorial Day services but we will be guided by the state as this situation evolves daily,” Town Manager James Tierney said.

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