Just over a month ago, the Kentuck Art Center in Northport made the decision to cancel the in-person 49th Kentuck Festival of the Arts due to the increasing severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This came as a shock to not only countless community members but also the over 60 artists already selected for the exhibition. This was only a minor setback, though, as Kentuck announced it was going digital with the new Virtual Marketplace which listed new VIP ticket packages up for sale Tuesday.

The Virtual Marketplace launches on Kentuck.org on October 10 at 9:00am, and extends through the end of the year.

"A lot of our artists rely on income from these in-person events," said Amy Echols, Kentuck's Executive Director. "And a lot of community members were also missing the experience, so we wanted to do our best to be responsible and still cater to several types of audiences."

In lieu of an in-person event, the "No-Show VIP Program" is available for a one-time donation of $50 for individuals up to $200 for family packages. Benefits extend throughout the entire event, and the VIP package includes exclusive badges, lanyards, and t-shirts, as well as first access to vendors, a printed artist list mailed to them and their name listed on the Virtual Marketplace.

To receive all the benefits, those interested must register here by September 17 at 5:00 p.m.

The Virtual Marketplace itself offers largely the same layout for regular users and VIP members: In a gallery-style layout, viewers can sort works by medium and interact directly with a specific artist's page. There will also be a combination of live and pre-recorded events where shoppers can interact directly with artists.

"It means so much to our community, and we couldn't imagine not having a festival," said Echols. "This unique opportunity of an extended festival is hopefully going to make up for the losses a lot of these artists are probably feeling lately."

Normally the Kentuck Festival of the Arts features more than 250 participating artists, but even in this strange year Echols still expects well over 100.

For more updates on the festival, follow Kentuck Art on Facebook, or visit Kentuck.org.

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