Organizers of the Armonk Outdoor Art Show are searching for a new venue for the popular annual event this fall after their pitch to use portions of two larger fields at Community Park was rebuffed.
For years the show has been held on the smaller track field at the park but more room is needed to comply with social distancing protocols because of COVID-19. The 59th annual show, scheduled for Oct. 3 and 4, has attracted about 185 artists in a broad assortment of media every year, but a larger venue is needed to protect artists, the legions of volunteers and patrons, said the event’s Executive Director Anne Curran.
“The show is a little more than four months away, but still requires months of planning,” Curran said. “So to us, in explaining the possibility of holding the show with these safety measures, the logical approach was to see if we could move it to the outfield section of Field 1 and between Field 1 and Field 2 on the other side of the tennis bubble.”
A recent request was made to the Town Board and Recreation Superintendent Todd Orlowski to use those fields, but Orlowski concluded that he was concerned that it could damage the turf, which is already stressed.
Some parents in the community, who have seen their children’s recreation programs and sports leagues canceled for nearly three months, were upset that a playing field might be taken out of use for a weekend next fall because of the art show, along with potential for damage.
Parent Abby Woodward wrote to the Town Board to express her opposition to the request. Fields 1 and 2 are used for soccer, baseball, softball, football and lacrosse.
“After a few months of being indoors, away from friends and structure, it’s imperative that these kids resume the sports they love,” said Woodward, who oversees a youth soccer program in town. “As noted by Mr. Orlowski, the fields will be rendered useless should the art show be moved to our sports fields.”
Curran said she and the other organizers respect Orlowski’s position and didn’t want to ignite a battle between different segments of the community.
“We would just like to defuse any negative thoughts or comments that have surfaced in terms of pitting the value of the art show as an art and cultural event versus the welfare or benefit to the kids who want to get back on the ball field,” she said.
A search is underway to find another site. Curran said that a location will need to be found by about July 15 in order to have enough time to plan and prepare.
While the event has been nationally recognized as one of the top art shows in the United States, it is more than a fun weekend for art lovers. Over the past five years it has raised more than $700,000 for the local library, said Barbara Vircillo, president of the Friends of the North Castle Public Library, organizes the show. Since 2008, more than $1.5 million has been raised.
The event also brings in about 9,000 visitors for the weekend, helping the local economy, she said.
“We are proud of our history in making the Armonk Outdoor Art Show a successful event for almost six decades and all that the vendors have contributed to in the library programs and improvements,” Vircillo said.
Town Supervisor Michael Schiliro said it’s a tough situation but the town will do what it can to see that the show has a home this year that is safe for all to attend.
“Hopefully, they can put on this program if the pandemic allows it in some way, shape or form and figure out the venue to do that,” Schiliro said.