«Back to As a Matter of Art

Spray Chalk: Summer’s Hot Commodity

by Mary Alice Franklin, ArtsNews Editor

Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts presents a Concert on the Lawn event featuring Charles Turner & Uptown Swing on August 1 (photo courtesy of Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts)
Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts presents a Concert on the Lawn event featuring Charles Turner & Uptown Swing on August 1 (photo courtesy of Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts)

Spray chalk, it seems, will be a hot commodity this summer. As dozens of arts organizations plan to pivot their indoor events into an outdoor format, many will be marking off socially distanced areas in the grass with chalk to ensure safe gatherings. Another common refrain among them: masks, hand sanitizer, and awaiting a green light from New York State officials. Until then, with the uncertainty of their summer revenue stream at stake, they continue planning.

But don’t worry, they aren’t going anywhere. “I am trying to work on details – figuring out the number of possible participants and how best to maintain distance,” says Lorraine Laken, Director of the Hammond Museum. Outdoor tai chi has likely never seemed so complicated.

Jazz Forum Arts Executive Director Mark Morganelli hopes that the group’s popular summer jazz concerts can go on as planned by shifting their timeline. The usual July/August concerts will now take place in August and September, and 10-foot chalk circles will encourage distancing. So will the removal of an intermission. “I’ve separately contacted each of our five partner venues with a suggested plan. Part of it includes shortening the concerts to one hour with no intermission to discourage grouping.”

For Caramoor Center of Music and the Arts, the plan includes cordoning off designated areas – some for gathering, others for wandering. No tables will be available for picnicking. Instead, a series of Saturday night concerts in the Center’s wide-open Friends Field will feature large, socially distanced circles, marked with that ever-popular spray chalk, in which people can sit for the concerts and picnic.

At Downtown Music at Grace (DTM), replace the chalk with strategically placed chairs on the lawn in front of Grace Church. Says Artistic and Managing Director Tim Lewis: “Along with consulting state guidelines, we’ve been speaking with an epidemiologist.” To minimize contact, all programs and tickets will be distributed digitally – part of a long list of precautions the group has outlined. The musicians will play at the top of the steps. Meanwhile, Hudson River Museum’s amphitheater, with limited capacity, will still be the site of a series of outdoor performances and programs, from open-air concerts to live astronomy shows under the stars in the late summer and early fall.

Guests enjoy a drive-in movie presented by The Bedford Playhouse and John Jay Homestead (photo courtesy of The Bedford Playhouse)
Guests enjoy a drive-in movie presented by The Bedford Playhouse and John Jay Homestead (photo courtesy of The Bedford Playhouse)

Music isn’t the only outdoor arts offerings in sight. Says Mariadora Saladino, Director of Advancement & Communications at Westchester Italian Cultural Center: “We are indeed planning our outdoor Italian movie festival, “Cinema Sotto Le Stelle,” for August. Among other considerations, we will have seniors arrive half an hour early and offer them seating at a distance from the other guests.” Pelham Art Center offers “art stations,” tables spread out across the Center’s courtyard. Future programs will take the outdoor setting into account, such as plein-air workshops that will allow for limited registrants to work six feet apart. Opening receptions for Mamaroneck Artists Guild’s exhibitions will be held on the sidewalk in front of the gallery to allow for sufficient distancing for attendees.

The Armonk Outdoor Art Show may be used to the outdoors, but with an Oct 3-4 show on the horizon, Executive Director Anne Curran says there are new things to consider in order to comply with state guidelines. Among them: reconfiguring the layout of artists’ tents, creating wider aisles for patrons to walk, and spacing the timing by which visitors enter the show to avoid congestion. Says Curran: “With all safety precautions in place, putting on the show…will be extremely positive for our artists who have suffered devastating losses over months of show cancellations, and will be a boon to local commerce.”

For those who prefer to keep a distance, the arts have that covered as well. John Jay Homestead and The Bedford Playhouse have partnered on a series of drive-in movies, including The Goonies and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, while New Rochelle Council on the Arts has considered a drive-in concert in lieu of its usual outdoor concert series in Hudson Park. Meanwhile, visitors to the Rivertowns can tour the artwork of local artists by car. Through Labor Day, RiverArts invites residents to create and display sculptures on their property. Works will appear on front yards, balconies and apartment windows. Each will be added to an interactive Google Map, with information about the artist and their work for a drive-by sculpture tour.

Sculpture by Kit Demirdelen on display in RiverArts' YardArt tour (photo courtesy of RiverArts)


As state guidelines for health and safety are updated, plans will be adjusted as well. Check with each presenter about procedures and events before attending these events.

Armonk Outdoor Art Show is a fine art and craft fair that features 185 juried artists, family activities, music and more. At 205 Business Park Dr., Armonk. October 3-4. More info: 914-629-7529.

Bedford Playhouse and John Jay Homestead present a series of drive- in movies, including The Goonies. At John Jay Homestead. July 10-11 & August 7-8.

Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts launches Concert on the Lawn, a late-summer series of open-air concerts. At Caramoor’s Friends Field. July 18 & 25, August 1 & 18. More info: [email protected]

Downtown Music at Grace presents a series of outdoor concerts on Wednesdays at noon in the courtyard adjacent to the Grace Church in White Plains. September 9, 16, 23, 30.

Jazz Forum Arts presents free outdoor concerts in August and September. Locations vary.

Hammond Museum presents outdoor Tai Chi classes that focus on relaxation, health and balance. Date(s) TBD. More info: [email protected]

Hudson Valley MOCA and the City of Peekskill present an outdoor sculpture trail walk, which highlights dozens of public artworks along the Peekskill waterfront and downtown area. Open year-round.

Mamaroneck Artists Guild presents an en plein air group art-making session and outdoor opening receptions for new exhibitions. Location TBD. September 1 (rain date: 9/2). More info: 914-834-1117.

New Rochelle Council on the Arts presents a drive-in concert. Location and dates TBA. More info: 914-654-2087.

Pelham Art Center presents Outdoor Community Art Days, featuring live painting demos and “Pelham Art Rocks” painting. At Pelham Art Center’s Courtyard. July 5 & August 2. More info: 914-738-2525.

RiverArts presents YardArt, an outdoor driving and walking sculpture tour of works by artists and residents of the Rivertowns. Works will be displayed throughout the Rivertowns through Labor Day. More info: 917- 742-7654.

Westchester County Parks presents two drive-in movie screenings: The Secret Life of Pets and Wonder Park, as part of its “Screening Under the Stars” series at Kensico Dam Plaza, Valhalla. July 17 & August 14.

Westchester Italian Cultural Center presents an outdoor Italian film festival and film screenings in Tuckahoe. Date(s) TBD.

A version of this article first appeared in the July issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNewsis distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.

More from As a Matter of Art Blog

More from As a Matter of Art Blog