ArtWalk Returns Downtown, Different Experience as COVID-19 Pandemic Continues

Claire Lyon

@ClaireLyon_

David Reed

@DavidGatesReed1

Feature Photo: Julianne Manuel representing her business Julie’s Kaffee Haus at ArtWalk on Saturday, Nov. 14. Manuel makes and sells face and body products made with coffee grounds from local coffee shop, Rêve Coffee Roasters.

After facing state and local restrictions due to COVID-19 earlier this year, Downtown Lafayette held its second, consistent in-person ArtWalk on Saturday, Nov. 14.

Scheduled for the second Saturday of every month, the event went virtual in April and May, and again in August and September, according to their Facebook page. Patrons were encouraged to attend “#ArtWalkAtHome,” as local artists were “exhibited” on the event’s Facebook page.

Sponsored by Downtown Lafayette, ArtWalk features various art exhibits, live performances and a multitude of pop-up vendors. With over 15 vendors lined up along Rue Jefferson, the event’s Facebook page encouraged attendees to “respect social distancing guidelines.” Included in the event was sister-project Lafayette Arts & Fleas, a monthly market that collaborates with ArtWalk in Parc de Lafayette.

While vendors were spaced out farther than usual, there were still some ArtWalk attendees who were concerned there wasn’t enough social distancing at the event.

“I would like to say there’s less people but honestly, there’s a lot of people out here,” Kameron Morgan, an attendee at the ArtWalk, said. “I don’t know what precautions they had for these. I just knew I was gonna wear a mask and I was hoping most other people would be wearing masks, too.”

Kiley Brinkman, another attendee at the ArtWalk, was also concerned about social distancing at the event.

“I find there’s a good bit of people that are wearing masks, a good bit of people that are not, so I would say it’s probably about 50-50,” Brinkman said. “Obviously there’s been a spike in COVID, so that is a concern overall.”

Some vendors also expressed some concerns about holding an in-person ArtWalk in the midst of COVID-19.

New vendor and Lafayette-based ceramicist, LiAnne Dick of Laffy LiAnne Ceramics,  said she became nervous about participating in the ArtWalk after she saw the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

“I agreed to do this about a week ago, so whenever I saw the numbers like two days ago I was a little nervous,” Dick said.

Meanwhile other vendors were relatively comfortable participating in the ArtWalk, despite the higher numbers, but found setting up to be a bit more tedious than before the virus.

Julianne Manuel, a returning ArtWalk vendor, said setting up for ArtWalk was different this time, as she has had to take additional precautions due to the virus.

Manuel said she may have been more concerned herself, but she’s participated in other markets since the onset of COVID-19. 

Selling various, all-natural face and body products through her business, Julie’s Kaffee Haus, Manuel’s business stand was set up outside Jefferson Street Pub. 

In regard to safety measures, Manuel said that prior to COVID-19, customers were allowed to open products to smell them. To provide a sanitary experience, however, Manuel instead offered test samples, sanitizing after each customer.

“I just try to sanitize everything down, make people comfortable,” Manuel said. “You definitely have to think more outside of the box on how you’re going to sell your product instead of just letting people pick it up [because] it’s just different now.”

Other ArtWalk veterans said they were most concerned with the drop in attendance compared to ArtWalks before the pandemic.

Cayla Zeek, artist and founder of Mattea Studio, said she noticed a lack of business compared to the usual crowd. A returning vendor with Lafayette Arts & Fleas, Zeek sells original artwork such as greeting cards, prints, and patches. Zeek also said she has been an ArtWalk vendor since 2015.

“I would say at a market like this, on a night like this I would do way more than half tonight, but [there is] just less traffic, less people,” Zeek said.

Frequent pop-up vendor Keith Cooper, co-owner of “Blerd-ish,” was also disappointed by the turnout, as he was expecting better sales than usual.

Blerd-ish, according to Cooper, is a website that hosts a podcast and sells independent comic books. For Cooper’s ArtWalk pop-up, Beausoleil Books gave him permission to set up outside their store, he said. However, Cooper said he anticipated more readers would see his stand. 

“Overall it wasn’t the usual volume of people,” Cooper said. “It’s a little disappointing, but it’s not nothing with [Beausoleil Books]. Just overall, it’s down.”

Despite the less than ideal circumstances, attendees said they still enjoyed the ArtWalk. For Brinkman, she said going to ArtWalk and supporting local artists is something anyone who has not been to the event should experience.

“COVID has put a different spin on things, so we’re all having to kind of rearrange and rethink how we do things,” Brinkman said. “I’m enjoying myself. This is my rest and relaxation for the weekend.”

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