A viral attack, a virtual response: PeaceWorks’ 30th art fair goes online


By Jim Hannah

2020 was shaping up as a banner year for PeaceWorks-KC’s annual art show.

The number of artists exhibiting last year was the highest ever, at 130, and the pool of artists was expected to continue to grow.

The percentage of minority artists represented at the fair was also on the rise, following intentional efforts of invitation and connection. And the number of performing artists who filled the air with music and spoken word was growing as well.

Furthermore, after last year’s torrential rain-out Saturday afternoon all but ended the fair, PeaceWorks leaders this year hoped for kinder, milder weather.

It was, in short, going to be a grand celebration of the art fair’s 30-year anniversary—what  many of the exhibiting artists fondly call “our favorite art fair.”

Representative works of artists featured in PeaceWorks’ online art fair line the walls of the indoor tent from which the show was broadcast, happily sheltered from a Sunday downpour.

A new moniker was even introduced to mark three decades of support for local artists and the justice-and-peace efforts of PeaceWorks. Previously termed the UNplaza Art Fair, in former years the event had ridden on the coat-tails of the nearby Plaza Art Fair, both in name and in attracting crowds drawn to the larger venue.

But the PeaceWorks Board determined that the fair should now stand on its own merit and more clearly identify itself. So a new moniker was chosen: PeaceWorks KC Local Art Fair.

Once more, local and affordable art would be offered in support of both art and peace.

The stage was set for celebration.

Then came the pandemic.

Art fairs and nearly all other public venues folded their tents as COVID-19 swept the land.

This was a serious blow to PeaceWorks’ aims: promoting peace through art, and funding its mission of a world without war and its weapons. When the painful decision was made to cancel this year’s tent city, a great void was created.

Fittingly, it was an artist who refused to be rained out at last year’s art fair who came forth with a creative alternative.

The garage of artist David Bayard’s home became an art gallery and broadcast booth Sept. 26-27, reaching more than 300 online visitors to PeaceWorks’ annual Local Art Fair.

“How about a virtual, online art fair?” asked David Bayard. And like a whirling dervish he set out to do just that. There was only one artist’s tent this year, a tent set up in David’s garage to exhibit representative works of his fellow online artists. From there he and other volunteers conducted about 10 hours of live interviews with artists, inviting attendees to visit the artists’ online booths for live chats and shop online from the artists’ websites.

Through a prodigious effort of recruitment, training, set-up, and logistics, David and PeaceWorks leaders attracted 44 artists to PeaceWorks KC’s Local Art Fair, and more than 300 online visitors. David hosted a weekend marathon of energized interviews, jokes, and banter. When asked how many hours he invested in his “Virtual Online Art Extravaganza,” David allowed as to how he “quit counting after 350 hours.”

The chair of PeaceWorks’ Action Committee, Bennette Dibben, takes her turn during 10 hours of online interviews and promotion of local artists, supporting PeaceWorks’ cause of “a world without war and its weapons.”

In his response we perhaps could all take a lesson on how to cope with COVID-19: hold to a hopeful vision, “possibilitize” creatively, and take action to make it so.

Thank you, David, for your artistry and activism! And thanks to our other wonderful artists for daring with us to venture online, for art and peace!

—Jim Hannah of the PeaceWorks Communications Committee wrote this reflection and took the photographs.

Man hanging origame peace cranes.