2019 Midwest Fire Fest

The Cambridge Arts Council hosted Midwest Fire Fest July 27 and 28, 2019, a smokes-and-fire-themed art festival in Westside Park. More than 6,000 people attended the fourth-annual festival involving art demonstrations, live music, food and art vendors. Above: Artists reveal a one-ton custom sculpture as it’s being fired. 

Midwest Fire Fest and the rest of the Cambridge Summer Concert Series have been canceled for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cambridge Arts Council announced in a release Sunday, May 10.

Midwest Fire Fest had been set for July 25-26 in downtown Cambridge, co-sponsored by the Cambridge Arts Council and the Clay Collective, a group of area potters.

The Arts Council announced in late April that its first two summer concerts, in June, were canceled.

With Sunday’s announcement, the rest of the concerts are canceled. They would have gone on through August in Veterans Park in downtown Cambridge.

Midwest Fire Fest marked its fourth year in Cambridge in 2019, drawing more than 6,000 attendees. The smoke-and-fire-inspired festival in and near Westside Park included live music, on-site art demonstrations, food carts, an art vendor show, a farm-to-table dinner, fire dancers and – an annually anticipated capstone moment – an evening, wood-fired sculpture reveal.

In 2019, Midwest Fire Fest drew more than 20 fire-based artists who both sold their wares and offered live demonstrations of their processes. Artists came from states including Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Cambridge Arts Council Director Laurie Struss said the challenges involved in putting on the concerts and festival during COVID-19 proved insurmountable.

“Health and safety come first. Period.” Struss said in a release. “Our many fans, artists, food vendors, musicians, loved ones, sponsors and Cambridge residents will not be put at risk as we all learn more about safely coming out of COVID-19.”

Struss said Midwest Fire Fest will continue to promote fire-based art, its artists and Cambridge over the coming months in social media and on its website, midwestfirefest.com.

Midwest Fire Fest Creative Director Mark Skudlarek, of Cambridge Wood-Fired Pottery, said in the release that “artists are still creating, so we will still continue to promote them as best we can.”

Skudlarek encouraged the public to visit the artists’ websites.

“Festivals like ours can be the main source of income for many of our artists, so to those who can, we’d greatly appreciate any support,” he said.

“Of course, we’ll miss providing great creative experiences and the economic ripple effect that comes from these events,” Struss said. “We want folks to continue to support the great businesses and experiences that only Cambridge can offer. But we must do the smart thing for our community.”

“It’s certainly not the end of Cambridge Arts Council events, just a pause as we learn the safest ways we can host them in the future. We want to do it right,” Struss continued.

In 2021, Midwest Fire Fest is tentatively scheduled for July 24 and 25. Next year’s Cambridge Summer Concert Series schedule will be announced in early 2021.

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