Wearable Art 2021 is newly reimagined and features a variety of pandemic-safe activities. At last year's event, “La Fauna et La Flore” by Jessica Sullivan and modeled by Jesse Riessenberger earned the third-place juror's award at  Wearable Art 2020: Joie de Vivre. (Courtesy Photo/Ron Gile)

Blast off to Wearable Art 2021

Reimagined festival offers something for everyone

If you’ve been yearning for an otherworldly adventure but feeling a little grounded and uninspired, climb aboard the Starship JAHC and blast off to the re-imagined Wearable Arts event.

For the last 20 years, the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council has sponsored the much-loved runway show each February as a fundraiser for fine arts scholarships, artist grants and to support operations at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.

With COVID-19 rendering a runway show with an audience of 900 people impossible, organizers got to thinking about new ways to bring the event to life. The result is a newly envisioned festival that includes in-person and online events that deliver a combination of experiences around the intergalactic theme.

“We expanded what’s normally two days into a week-long festival and threw in a bunch of events,” said Kathleen Harper, co-production manager of the event.

This year’s main event is still a runway show on May 14 and 15, but it was pre-recorded. It will be accompanied by live narration over the radio with several opportunities to see the show from a personal device and an encore performance at the drive-in theatre on May 22. Themed partnerships with local restaurants and drink specials at breweries come together to offer special VIP packages.

A living gallery on May 21 and 22 will offer an opportunity to see the models up close.

The online shows will be supplemented with an app-based scavenger hunt, an online silent auction and trivia contests on May 18 and 20. An awards ceremony will be held on May 23.

Prices vary for each event, and different packages are available.

“This is not going to be a talking head Zoom show,” Harper said.

Nancy DeCherney, executive director at Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, said she expects the new format will deliver for a Zoom-weary audience.

“This is not your average runway show, and this isn’t your average Zoom thing. We are shaking things up,” she said. “COVID has brought forward resilience, and you have to take a positive approach. We’ve been doing this for quite some time, and we were thinking maybe it’s time to do something new. This gave us a chance to do that,” she said.

DeCherney acknowledged Zoom fatigue and said the event organizers took that concern to heart. She believes that the revised format will still yield fun and essential community benefits. She’s more cautious about the fundraising aspect.

“My goal is to break even. I don’t think we will make the money we normally do. But, we love the community-building, energy, and excitement about the arts in Juneau.”

About the theme and the process

Coincidentally, the intergalactic theme was selected last year, about a month before widespread pandemic restrictions arrived in Juneau. But, it proved perfect for the revised format.

“There’s so much sci-fi, fun geekery to be had with that theme,” Harper said.

Harper explained that the theme lends itself to the format as the hosts will imagine traveling through space to examine art and fashion on other planets.

“We are working through a spaceship idea and just rolling with it. We are having fun with campy references to science fiction and space-related stuff,” she said.

Margeaux Ljungberg, director of the livestream, said the video format allowed for a different view of the pieces and offered viewers new ways to see the finer details of the finished pieces.

“In a live show, the audience can choose where to look. In this way, we get to control what our audience sees, especially for those artists who work in fine detail,” she said.

Live theatre is coming to a park near you

Auction items

DeCherney said that the raffle and online auction are highlights of the event each year and that she’s happy to replicate both in the revised format. She said the auction includes fabulous treasures, including a custom-made guitar and opportunities for unique experiences.

The silent auction opens to the public on May 14, with JAHC members able to bid beginning May 10.

Raffle tickets for two round-trip Alaska Airlines tickets are available for $10 each.

Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

Know & Go

Visit www.jahc.org/wearable-art/ to find a complete list of events, the festival app, and to purchase tickets.

If you are interested in the deal and show packages, act fast—they blast off the site on Friday, May 7.

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