CHICAGO (CBS) – Local artists hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic hope to make up for lost time at the last summer outdoor festivals.
As CBS 2’s Jackie Kostek reported on Saturday, one of those festivals is the West Loop Art Fest, which is back after two years.
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For many local artists, street festivals like the West Loop Art Fest are their lifeblood – one of the main ways to interact with patrons and earn money. Artists Kostek spoke to said they could earn anywhere from a few hundred dollars on a bad weekend to as much as $ 40,000 on a good one.
âWe’re all pretty deep overall right now, so we have to catch up today,â said Andrew Christen.
Just before the pandemic hit, Christen was doing pretty well. His work – mostly flags made from recycled wood found in the city’s back streets – was in a dozen restaurants across town and he had just installed a small gallery inside the Ogilvie Transportation Hub.
âI was there for two months and early February and had COVID,â he said. âI had to demolish the booth when I had COVID and I was sick for a month and then it all fell apart. “
Christen says 10 of the 12 restaurants he worked with have closed. Street festivals have been canceled.
Meanwhile, he had to find roommates, six of them, to stay afloat.
âI literally went six months without money,â Christen said.
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Christen said he was eligible for UI benefits in the event of a pandemic and was receiving about $ 175 per month. But with respect to other grants, artist grants or paycheck protection program loans, he says he got nothing.
âIf you didn’t own a restaurant – which seems to be the loudest people here – they got the money and we didn’t,â he said.
For travel photographer James Cole, dealing with the dry income stream was one thing. Dealing with the impact of the pandemic on his work is another.
âI got into an area where I didn’t feel creative,â Cole said. âI put art on the back burner for a while. I never even watched it.
Cole averaged about 35 art exhibitions a year, some in Chicago, others outside of the city. The return of festivals, the opportunities to connect with people are like a wake-up call, Cole said.
âIt makes you appreciate being an artist because that’s what we love,â he said. âWe love interactions. Without interaction with art, there is no art.
The artists said the weather is also a big factor in the success of these weekends. Lucky for them, the weather should be just about perfect until Sunday.
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You can attend the West Loop Art Fest on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.