Though live performances have been halted by the coronavirus pandemic, the Lotus Education & Arts Foundation has hopes to bring back the energy and community spirit of their annual Lotus World Music & Arts Festival in 2021.
The fall festival was virtual last year due to the pandemic, but this year, the organization announced Oct. 20, 2020 that the festival is scheduled to happen in-person, Sept 23-26. Tickets will go on sale in August.
“The overarching statement for Lotus is that we are continually examining how we can provide content and engagement for people of Bloomington and South Central Indiana,” foundation Executive Director Tamara Loewenthal said.
Loewenthal said while the festival is planned to be held in-person, there is no guarantee that this won’t change. If an in-person festival is impossible, the event will be livestreamed that weekend.
Lotus is staying closely in touch with the Monroe County Health Department, following the federal government’s COVID-19 restrictions and monitoring news regarding how people are getting vaccinated. With this information, the organization/foundation will make decisions on what the festival will look like.
“When are you ready to go hear live music?” Loewenthal said. “For a lot of people, it's going to be after they're vaccinated, and so we're already booking some artists for the festival with the hopes that they can be here in person.”
Loewenthal said decisions on whether or not festival events will be livestreamed or in person won’t be confirmed until June. She understands this event will not be the typical festival size, but hopes there will be some aspects of normal live shows.
“People might mix and match their festival experience to what feels comfortable to them,” Loewethal said. “But we're quite sure that we will be able to do a few live things and we're going with that assumption.”
Normally, the festival features artists from all over the world who perform in venues in downtown Bloomington. The streets downtown close for the festival so participants can walk from venue to venue and experience live music and workshops.
In a normal year, the festival is a gem of Bloomington, according to foundation marketing and communications director Kathleen Clark-Perez.
“The popularity of the festival and the support that the community shows the festival shows how dedicated the Bloomington community is to making positive social change and to embracing diversity and the beauty as a whole,” Clark-Perez said.
While the majority of the festival last year was virtual, Lotus was able to organzie one socially distanced concert at Switchyard Park with 150 attendees who signed up online. Loewenthal said that during this concert and at their live workshops last fall, Lotus was cautious of social distancing, wearing masks and keeping track of people’s names for contact tracing.
“We haven't had a single case of transmission,” Loewenthal said. “We're super careful about the way we produce our events. We don't want staff at risk, and we certainly don’t want to put artists, attendees, or audience members at risk.”
Clark-Perez said a lot of her job recently has related to helping Lotus continue programming through the pandemic.
“Every organization has kind of gone through that learning curve to figure out how to livestream pre recorded events or get a live emcee to introduce something pre recorded or to have an artist take over our Facebook page and do something truly live,” Clark-Perez said.
Lotus virtually coordinated Lotus Blossoms in April, a four-week series of artist workshops and performances focused on outreach and education to students. Loewenthal said despite the quick turnaround, Lotus was able to host four live streams from some of the scheduled artists.
Despite the pandemic, Lotus is continuing to plan future events. Development Coordinator Katie Bethel said their work is extremely important right now as access to arts and cultural activity has been decreased due to COVID-19.
“It’s very important to try and continue to bring that to the community because the arts inspire hope for the future when there is so much coming down the pipeline for everyone,” Bethel said.
CORRECTION: Katie Bethel's name was misspelled in a previous version of this article.