As of this writing, we are mere hours away from the long-awaited return of the in-person Boneyard Arts Festival. Getting here hasn't been easy, especially for 40 North Executive Director Kelly White, who steered the ship through some pretty rough seas. While in the weeks leading up to BYAF 2021 I began to see invitations from participating artists on social media, I was most curious to get the big picture. I reached out to White, who graciously took time out from festival planning to tell us what BYAF 2021 will look like, what it's been like getting here and what 40 North led-arts experiences can look forward to this weekend and throughout the summer. This year's festival will look a bit different and for good reason. But its signficance, as a step towards healing our community and breathing life back into our arts scene, can't be underestimated. So this weekend, visit what you are comfortable visiting (indoor vs. outdoor) and give your support to our local artists with your dollars or your appreciation online and off. 


Smile Politely: Congratulations on bringing back Boneyard Arts Festival. I imagine it must be quite an undertaking. Can you give us an idea of what the festival will look like this year?

Kelly White: We had almost completed the planning and registration for the 2020 Boneyard when everything had to be shut down. When we had to postpone and eventually cancel the festival, it created a void that a virtual event just couldn’t fill. Even though 2021 remained uncertain in the early months, I was dedicated to bringing back Boneyard–for the artists, for the community, for 40 North, and honestly, for me! There was no way we could predict what health regulations would be in place months into the future, but the committee was dedicated to making it happen. We did a quick survey of artists, venues, and general festival goers, and, although still cautious, the majority were hopeful for the festival to return. Once the call went out for registrations, there were both artists and venues that, understandably, were not quite ready to jump on board–but, lucky for us, many embraced the chance to re-connect, build back, and celebrate our creative community once again. This year will be a bit smaller (50+ venues compared to the usual 100+), but packed with vision, passion, and resiliency. We lean so much on the arts during difficult times–to comfort, to heal, to escape–and 2020 presented an alarming preview of what this community would look like without art-related events and performances. Boneyard 2021 is the first step to re-acquaint ourselves with our remarkable creative community, provide much-needed support to our local artists, and re-connect with what makes this place so special.

Collage of images from the Deep Breathe-Hold-Exhale event at Boneyard Arts Festival 2021. Image from the Boneyard Arts Festival website.
Image from the Boneyard Arts Festival website.

SP: What can visitors expect in terms of COVID protocols etc.?

White: In the early planning stages we were looking at several protocols following direction from CU Pubic Health. We focused on capacity limits, mask requirements, hybrid options, etc., but after moving to phase 5, many of those regulations were no longer required. A few venues will be requiring masks (noted in the guide), a few events will take place outside, and we will also make an extra effort to provide online coverage as much as possible for anyone that still doesn’t feel safe attending an event.

SP: What has been most challenging in putting this all together?

White: As I mentioned before, by far the most challenging part is just not knowing what we could expect. Planning anything in 2020 and early 2021 has been near impossible. All the what ifs, wait and sees, and constant changes in regulations just sucked the life out of any hope to pull something together in any cohesive way. I am thrilled we are starting to feel that return to something familiar—the slowly changing energy is tangible and it feels like much needed sustenance.

SP: What are you most excited for visitors to experience?

White: I think I am most excited for visitors to experience so many new artists and spaces as well as established artists in new environments. It almost feels a bit like starting over which can be a bit messy but wholly thrilling at the same time. I personally can’t wait to see the artists connect in person again, to experience some powerful work created during and from such darkness, and be challenged, reassured, and humbled by the talent in this community.

Collage of images from the Remote Work exhibition at Boneyard Arts Festival 2021. Image from the Boneyard Arts Festival website.
Image from the Boneyard Arts Festival website.

SP: It looks like 40 North will be having a busy summer between The Great ARTdoors and the Crystal Lake Art Fair. Anything you can share about those?

White: I am practically giddy about the Crystal Lake Park Fair! The inaugural event in 2019 was such a success that the momentum leading into 2020 was tremendous–we hope to bring that enthusiasm and excitement to the 2021 event on August 7th. There will 40+ artists and the lineup is killer! The second round of Great ARTdoors has also been a joy–similar to the initial call, artists pulled out all the stops to create some extraordinary pieces. Whether responding to the isolation of COVID, plastics impact on the environment, or the passage of time filled with both happiness and hidden pain, their visions pushed all boundaries in the best way.

SP: What's the best way for people to get all the BYAF details, and stay up-to-date on the rest of 40 North's upcoming events?

White:  You can search the BYAF website by venue, date, or artist, follow #boneyard21 on Instagram. And visit 40 North on Instagram or Facebook

Top image from the Boneyard Arts Festival website.