PORT ANGELES — When it comes to planning live music events, “we’re all just kind of walking in the dark,” said Kayla Oakes, executive director of the nonprofit Juan de Fuca Foundation for the Arts, which has canceled its summer Concerts on the Pier series.
This was to be JFFA’s first year presenting the free Wednesday evening performances.
Bands, local and regional, were booked. Sponsors stepped up.
Earlier this summer, Oakes tried delaying the start of the series until September, hoping Clallam County would be further along in Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start reopening plan.
But confirmed COVID-19 cases have continued to climb, and the City Pier concerts can draw 300 people or more, far more than the number allowed in gatherings at this point in the pandemic.
Sequim’s Music in the Park and Port Townsend’s Concerts on the Dock series were likewise canceled last spring.
In Sequim, KSQM-FM is hosting the “Music Where You Park” series of radio broadcasts.
The station invites people to park their cars at various locations about 6 p.m. Tuesdays; listeners can tune in and hear interviews and music from bands such as the Navy Band Northwest on Aug. 25. The parking lot for that radio show will be the Mariner’s Cafe, 609 W. Washington St., Sequim.
This isn’t live music, KSQM’s Tama Bankston emphasized; it’s a drive-in radio-listening session.
Meantime, live music has been scrubbed all over the state, including the Juan de Fuca Festival and JFFA’s Season Concerts series, which is postponed until next year.
Oakes and her board of directors remain keen to find other ways to make the arts part of community life — to shine a light in that darkness she mentioned.
This summer brought the free Market Art project, one of JFFA’s new ventures.
This past Saturday at the Port Angeles Farmers Market, Oakes and JFFA administrative manager Kari Chance hosted a free face-mask decorating activity for all ages, with spread-out work stations and kits available for families to take home.
Eighty people participated at the market while 10 more picked up kits, Chance said.
“We still have mask-making kits left, with markers and masks in child and teen or adult sizes,” Oakes said Monday.
The free kits are available during business hours outside JFFA’s office in the Chase Bank lobby at Front and Laurel streets through Friday.
Market Art began July 11 with “Birds of a Feather Flock Together,” in which young artists painted paper feathers with watercolors.
Oakes and crew then gathered some 250 feathers to assemble a pair of wings in the window of the former Maurice’s store beside the Conrad Dyar Memorial Fountain at First and Laurel streets.
“The wings are really cool,” Port Angeles Farmers Market board member Laurel Hargis wrote Oakes in an email.
“Kudos to JFFA,” Hargis added, “for keeping art alive in such difficult circumstances; we need art and community even more” in these times.
On the next Market Art day, Sept. 12, the theme will be “Together We Soar,” with JFFA hosting socially distanced art stations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. under The Gateway pavilion at Front and Lincoln streets.
Youngsters and adults can make multicolored origami paper cranes, to take flight in a large mobile to be displayed in downtown Port Angeles; Oakes and crew are looking for an installation site.
“We have some other ideas brewing,” Oakes said, adding that she seeks to develop activities that serve JFFA’s mission of providing high-quality arts and entertainment for the North Olympic Peninsula.
The Market Art project, which Oakes called “smashingly successful” in terms of turnout, is likely to become a permanent part of JFFA’s programming, thanks to its popularity and to sponsorship by D.A. Davidson.
As for thinking ahead to the 2021 Juan de Fuca Festival, “it’s going to have to look very different,” she said.
“This time really is a challenge — and an opportunity to create something new.”
Mindy Gelder, a longtime JFFA board member, added that, in the midst of the public health crisis, cultural experiences — music, dance, theater, visual art — have the power to heal.
“Art and music aren’t considered ‘essential services’ during this pandemic,” Gelder said. “But we know they are essential to our lives.”
Arts programming now calls for one pivot after another, Oakes added.
“We’re going to get pretty dizzy from all of the pivoting,” she quipped.
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.