PICTURED: The 44th Annual Art in the Park takes place May 29-30 in Ojai’s Libbey Park. Photo submitted

by Emily Dodi 

The Ojai Art Center kicks off its 44th annual Art in the Park celebration Memorial Day weekend. And there is plenty to celebrate. 

“We are thrilled because it makes us feel like things are getting back to normal,” explains Teri Mettala, director of the Ojai Art Center.  

The free event takes place May 29-30 in Libbey Park and will feature more than 60 fine artists from across California. 

“It’s a great opportunity for artists, locals, tourists and art lovers of all ages to meet, browse and buy,” say the event’s organizers. COVID-19 protocols will be in effect, including social distancing requirements and the request that face coverings be worn. 

Due to pandemic restrictions, this year’s festival won’t include live musical performances or the selling of alcoholic beverages. “Next year,” Mettala says, adding that the event will still be a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. “I think it’ll just be so nice to be out and to see artists and just stroll around.” 

That’s a widely shared sentiment, especially since last year’s Art in the Park was canceled and this year’s event wasn’t confirmed until just a few weeks ago. Even with the changes that come with the times, Mettala says “the essence of Art in the Park, the heart and soul of it, will be the same. That’s what matters. It’s a really great little festival.”

Although social distancing protocols mean fewer vendors than in previous years, Art in the Park will host many returning artists as well as some new ones. 

“The quality of the art is really high,” Mettala points out. Finding talented artists who want to participate wasn’t difficult. “So many artists are eager to get out of the house and be part of a show.” 

In keeping with tradition there will be a children’s area and a booth sponsored by Ojai’s Nordhoff High School. An exciting new addition will be a booth hosted by Ojai Studio Artists, the organization behind the town’s popular annual studio tour; it will showcase the works of several different local artists.  

The Ojai Art Center is busy getting back to “normal” in the safest way possible. Beyond Art in the Park, OAC will show <em>Restoration,</em> (June 5-30), a photography exhibit that “celebrates a return to normalcy with a reminder of what we have been through and what we are looking forward to.” Next, OAC’s theatre branch will present <em>Family Furniture</em> June 25-July 18. Of this family drama by A.R. Gurney the New York Times said “a sense of dangerous change seems to hang threateningly in the atmosphere, like a thunderstorm that just won’t burst.” It’s directed by Tom Eubanks and features Wilson, Buddy Wilds, Kisea Kattika, Ashley Osler and Amber Shea Hodge. (COVID regulations may mean limited seating, but things could change if restrictions are lifted on June 15.)

After the year we’ve all had, it’s time to get out and enjoy. Go have some fun. Safely.

Art in the Park takes place May 29-30, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at Libbey Park, 210 S. Signal St., Ojai. For more information, call 805-646-0117 or visit www.ojaiartcenter.org.