UPDATED: Sawdust Art Festival moves forward with weekend-only marketplace

Art lovers shop at a recent Sawdust Art Festival preview night. Photo by Ed Chang

The Sawdust Art Festival will be scaled down to a weekend-only outdoor marketplace starting in July due to state and county health guidelines, festival leaders said in a statement Thursday.

The cancellation of Sawdust’s daily operation is the latest local ripple of the coronavirus pandemic, which also shuttered the Festival of the Arts’ Pageant of the Masters for the first time since World War II.

“Our first priority is the health and well-being of our artists, staff, and patrons,” Monica Prado, president of the Sawdust Board of the Directors said in a statement. “Knowing that even a modified version of our annual festival would not meet reopening criteria, our board of directors quickly pivoted in a different direction.”

Last month, city staffers said they were reviewing a proposal from the Sawdust’s leaders to open July 18 under a modified format, which included halving maximum crowd capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sawdust plan is in accordance with the State Industry Guidelines for outdoor malls, shopping centers, and swapmeets and therefore doesn’t require approval from OC Health Care Agency, Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis wrote in an email Thursday.

The scheduled Outdoor Marketplace will provide 46 spaces that artists can configure to sell their creations. More than 100 Sawdust artists will rotate through the Outdoor Marketplace over the course of the summer, according to a press release. Prado wrote in a text message Thursday that the festival typically installs 198 artisan vendor spaces at the festivals start.

The California Department of Public Health and California Division of Occupational Safety and Health published guidance on May 12 for how open-air shopping centers can reopen while also preventing the spread of the coronavirus. State officials recommend outdoor marketplace operators ensure that vendors space their tables, tents, and other displays with appropriate physical distancing requirements or install impermeable barriers, such as plexiglass.

The state guidance also recommends temperature and/or symptom screenings for all employees at the beginning of their shifts as well as any vendors, contractors, or other workers.

“I want to commend the Sawdust Board of Directors for their creativity in developing a plan for a marketplace at the Sawdust grounds that will allow a great Laguna tradition to continue on a limited basis this summer,” Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen said in a statement. “Our community was founded by artists and the marketplace will provide an opportunity for many local artists to sell their art to support themselves and their families.”

More details and online ticket purchases will be available before the end of this month.

This story is developing and will be updated as necessary.

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