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Beloved Arts Fair Exhibits Flair and Fun Even as a Virtual Event

There has been no shortage of conundrums the past 18 months. As a lingering pandemic pushes its way into a second consecutive summer, operators of traditionally live events are again facing head-scratching decisions about how to safely stage them—if they’re held at all.

For the organizers of the Bellevue Arts Museum’s 75th annual Arts Fair, the position was clear for 2021: the show must go on.

“We knew that this year’s arts fair would need to be a virtual event. And that presented both challenges and opportunities,” said Meredith Langridge Anderson, BAM Arts Fair events producer.

That decision—to take the event online—put forth a heavy technical and design lift: the event would require a digital platform that could not only showcase the works of more than 130 juried artists but could also accommodate a high level of interactivity, not to mention sponsored programming and e-commerce. Furthermore, the site would need to be accessible to a broad range of users, including event staff, artists, and fair attendees. And because it’s the largest arts and crafts fair in the Northwest, that’s no small number of people.

“We’re always up for a challenge,” said Kalie Kimball-Malone, chief creative officer at brand and digital experience firm The Garrigan Lyman Group (GLG). “With our experience developing best-in-class websites and e-commerce solutions, we could quickly see what technologies would be required to build it. And it was a lot of technology.”

Collaborating with museum staff, GLG strategy and UX teams developed a solution that would seamlessly integrate multivendor technologies and create a unique shopping experience that was accessible to anyone who needed it.

“The site is really exciting,” said Kalie. “Online, fairgoers can view and purchase works from more than 130 juried Northwest artists, watch main stage entertainment and interviews, and even engage directly with artists and makers via video conferencing and chat features. Shoppers can also commission custom orders.”

For event staff and artists, an intuitive content management system allows for easy updating of artwork and messaging. For fair attendees, viewing options are simplified with filters that display works by medium, item type, and other criteria. And as a family affair, the arts fair ensures that kids’ activities are easily accessible.

“Every year, the Bellevue Arts Museum Arts Fair connects artists with the community. This year’s virtual event allows the fair to do that safely while still keeping it fun and inspiring,” said Kalie.

With the advantage of digital, the GLG solution opens the door to intriguing new opportunities during future events.

“Even as we get back to in-person events down the road, we can see now how our new website will still play a big part,” said Meredith. “The site will help to open up additional opportunities to engage with an even wider range of Northwest talent. That’s exciting to think about.”

Visit and explore the 75th annual BAM Arts Fair website.