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Despite a Pandemic and Wildfires, One of Portland’s Biggest Arts Festivals Is Still Happening This Month

TBA organizers Erin Boberg and Kristan Kennedy discuss the logistics of putting on a festival in a time of multiple crises.

WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.

The Time-Based Art Festival has been planning around the pandemic since February. Then two days into this year's iteration of the art festival, organizers had to start planning around the wildfire smoke, too.

One of Portland's largest and most beloved art events, the sprawling festival usually books dozen of local, national and international artists and takes place in venues across the city. But when the possibility of a worldwide COVID-19 outbreak began looming in February, curators Erin Boberg, Kristan Kennedy and Roya Amirsoleymani began to expect they'd have to do things differently this year.

Despite their foresight, the trio didn't know if they could hold any kind of festival until late June. And their eventual solution—a combination of online streaming and outdoor events—ended up requiring some last-minute restructuring, too.

With hazardous air cloaking the city at least until the end of the week, TBA, which launched last week, has had to indefinitely reschedule its outdoor events, including video installations along the Willamette River and a picnic catered by Kee's Loaded Kitchen.

But everything else is still happening on TBA's website, and almost all of it is free. Until Sept. 30, you can tune in to everything from Shakespeare plays told with kitchen items, standup comedy and experimental song-poems.

WW talked to Boberg and Kennedy about running an art festival while dealing with a pandemic and wildfires.

See more Distant Voices interviews here.