Author: ZAPP Team
Date: October 11, 2023
Art Fairs and Festivals in a Changing Climate: Adapting to Environmental Challenges
Art fairs and festivals are beloved cultural events that bind communities; however, it’s hard to ignore the ever-growing impact climate change has on weather patterns and the reality that events are not immune to these changes. In this blog post, we explore how climate change is reshaping the landscape of art fairs and festivals and how artists and event organizers adapt to these environmental challenges.
How Event Organizers are Adapting to the Changing Climate
Based on the climate change indicators gathered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the earth has undergone long-term changes in temperature, precipitation, and extreme weather events such as heat waves, hurricanes, floods, and droughts. Nine of the top 10 warmest years on record have occurred in the contiguous U.S. states since 1998, and all of the top 10 warmest years on record worldwide have occurred since 2005 (1). Heat waves are occurring more often than they used to in major cities across the United States, from an average of two heat waves per year during the 1960s to six per year during the 2010s and 2020s (2). Tropical storm activity in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico has increased during the past 20 years (3). While outdoor art shows have always been at the mercy of unpredictable weather, these trends of the past two decades are making these uncertainties more pronounced.
As frequent, extreme weather is becoming the new norm, event organizers must plan logistically for a wide range of scenarios. This concern is reflected in ZAPP’s recent Administrator Experience & Event Insight Survey, in which 13% of respondents cited climate change and its impacts on outdoor events as their most concerning issue when considering the future of their events (4).
Annie Crouch, community engagement manager of ArtFest Fort Myers, described many changes the festival had to make following the devastating effects of Hurricane Ian during the week their in-person, projected jury was supposed to be held. “It was simply unsafe for us to attempt to hold the in-person jury,” she said. “So, we elected to switch to a remote, monitor jury instead, and we will probably continue to hold our jury remotely every year from here on out. With our jury taking place right after the peak of hurricane season in our area, it is simply not worth the risk to plan for an in-person jury.” Crouch also recalled many challenges during the festival itself, including a high number of declines from invited artists who were concerned about the storm’s impact on sales. The event also encountered logistical issues such as power source problems, debris blocking access to parking lots, and concerns about damages to the site affecting the event photography imperative to marketing efforts, all of which complicated the planning process and caused confusion for those involved. Despite the challenges they faced, the festival was successful with strong attendance and increased merchandise sales, possibly due to the community’s recovery and the bittersweet demand for art in homes needing redecoration after flood damage.
As the ArtFest Fort Myers community continues to adapt to threats of impending hurricanes each year, other events, like the Des Moines Art Festival, have experienced an increase in rain and high winds. “We have fished artwork from gutters as it flowed down the street during driving rains,” said Executive Director Stephen King. “We have experienced fully-loaded artist tents sliding down the street because of high winds.” Part of how the festival adapted was by honing in on its existing Emergency Action Plan, which includes procedures for various emergencies, such as harsh weather, bomb threats, and active shooters, and uses a texting system to effectively communicate weather updates and potential issues to all relevant parties during events. Another change involved a new policy prohibiting artists from using lightweight, accordion-style pop-up tents and placing a minimum weight requirement on all tents. “Our Artist Relations Team checks tents as they are being set up and if they find one that does not meet the requirement, the artist is not allowed to set up or they can rent a tent from the tent company,” says King. “[A] vast majority of artists are grateful for the rule because it keeps them safe.”
How Artists are Adapting to the Changing Climate
Festivals and fairs like ArtFest Fort Myers and Des Moines Art Festival are not alone in having to address the effects of climate change year after year. Exhibiting artists also face challenges while showcasing their work at outdoor festivals in a changing climate. Art displayed in a gallery is one thing, but art displayed outdoors and exposed to the elements and large crowds, is another. This means traveling and exhibiting artists must account for the additional risk of their artwork being exposed to unpredictable weather, increased costs for replacing equipment, or in the worst cases, damaged artwork.
As a result of these threats brought upon by climate change, the need for artists to adapt has grown. First, artists must consider significant differences in the location the event is taking place. Climate variations in different regions mean artists must tailor their practices to suit the specific conditions of each event they attend—whether it’s scorching heat, unpredictable rain, or extreme cold. Secondly, artists must carefully consider the equipment they use, ensuring it can withstand the environmental challenges it may encounter on the road. In addition, protecting their artwork during shows likely demands extra care and vigilance in the face of climate-related risks. Another important consideration is possible weather-related obstacles artists may face when traveling to the event. In a world where climate change is transforming our surroundings, artists, too, must evolve their strategies to thrive in the face of these shifting conditions.
Embracing Emergency & Disaster Preparedness
To further build resilience and better prepare for disasters, art fairs and individual artists must prioritize emergency and disaster preparedness. Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF+) is a nonprofit organization that provides education programs, advocacy, network building, and direct emergency relief for craft artists. Below is a list of resources designed to help artists facing disasters and emergencies throughout their careers:
- Studio Protector: This is an invaluable tool that helps craft artists create customized emergency preparedness plans. It offers practical advice on safeguarding artwork, securing studio spaces, and developing contingency strategies to mitigate potential risks.
- Career Protection Tools: CERF+ has a library of resources designed to help you in any aspect of your artistic career. From financial management and legal issues to marketing and self-care, these tools are there for any artist seeking additional help.
- Peer Advice: Hear from the artists CERF+ has helped over the years by reading its Artist Stories, and browse the Peer Advice videos with several emergency preparation and recovery topics.
- Emergency Relief Grants: CERF+ offers grants to craft artists who have experienced a recent emergency or disaster. These grants can help cover studio repairs, tool replacement, materials, or even temporary housing.
- Get Ready Grants: This grant program encourages craft artists to proactively prepare for emergencies by offering funding to purchase emergency preparedness equipment, such as fire extinguishers, fire-resistant storage solutions, or emergency power generators. It aims to empower artists to take preventive measures against potential disasters.
Addressing Climate Change
Festivals can consider incorporating sustainable practices to both adapt to and mitigate the increasing impact of climate change. One key aspect is reducing carbon footprints by implementing practices such as using renewable energy sources, promoting public transportation, and minimizing waste. Additionally, festivals can prioritize using eco-friendly materials for installations and signage, implementing water conservation measures, and encouraging local sourcing and fair-trade practices. By embracing these practices, outdoor art shows can contribute to the fight against climate change.
Artists may also need to consider incorporating sustainability in their art-making practice. Some of the ways artists can achieve this are through shared maker spaces, resource efficiency, and choosing sustainable materials. A recent blog post by CERF+ shares examples of how sustainability is being addressed in the field with these methods. Sharing equipment and studio space can reduce resource consumption while choosing eco-friendly or recycled materials can reduce an artist’s environmental footprint. By implementing these practices, artists can foster collective problem-solving and actively participate in reducing the impact of climate change.
Art fairs and festivals are not only a source of entertainment but also an opportunity for artists to showcase their talent. As climate change continues to impact events, sustainable practices can help ensure they continue to thrive. By prioritizing emergency preparedness and building resilience, art fairs and festivals can weather future storms and adapt in the face of climatic adversities.
(1) United States Environmental Projection Agency (2023, July 21). Climate Change Indicators: U.S. And Global Temperature. Retrieved October 4, 2023, from https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators/climate-change-indicators-us-and-global-temperature
(2) United States Environmental Projection Agency (2023, August 22). Climate Change Indicators: Heat Waves. Retrieved October 4, 2023, from https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators/climate-change-indicators-tropical-cyclone-activity
(3) United States Environmental Projection Agency (2023, July 21). Climate Change Indicators: Tropical Cyclone Activity. Retrieved October 4, 2023, from https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators/climate-change-indicators-tropical-cyclone-activity
(4) The ZAPP Administrator Experience & Event Insight Survey was conducted online between Aug. 15 and Sept. 30, 2023. 96 responses were collected out of approximately 1,438 users of admin.zapplication.org.