CHATHAM – This year's Art in the Park exhibit will go forward with “pods” of decorated whales socially distanced for safety.
About 50 five-foot whales will be spread throughout Kate Gould Park beginning on July 3. They will remain on display through Aug. 21.
“It's a little bit of normalcy” on Main Street in a summer that has seen the cancellation of the July 4 parade and Friday night band concerts, said Select Chair Shareen Davis. The board last week gave its unanimous blessing to the Chatham Merchants Association to go ahead with the display.
For several years now, the merchants have sponsored a downtown art exhibit during the summer, initially featuring sharks but later varying the theme to include mermaids, fishing boats and Cape Cod silhouettes. This year's theme is whales; local businesses and organizations sponsor artists to paint, shape or decorate the cut-outs in any way they see fit. An online auction will run during the exhibit, and when the final bids are tallied, half will go to the artists and half to the Chatham Merchants Association to support its events and other programs.
Among this year's exhibits will be a whale created for the Chatham Coronavirus Impact Fund, which will receive all of the proceeds from its sale. The bidding can be followed at sharksinthepark.net.
To keep people from crowding the whales, the artwork will be spread throughout the park, said Merchants Association President Susan Dimm. Ten whales will be located directly behind the fence at the Main Street entrance to the park. The remaining whales will be arrayed in groups of four throughout the park. Each of these “pods” will be spaced at least 12 feet apart to facilitate social distancing, she said. Signs at the park entrances will explain the need for spectators to practice social distancing.
“The pods are far enough from each other that people won't be on top of each other looking at them,” Dimm said. There's plenty of space in the park to accommodate all the whales while leaving the walkways free, she added.
If people touching the whales becomes a concern, they can be roped off.
“We think that by distancing the whales, there's plenty of room then for people to move around them,” she said.
Selectman Jeffrey Dykens cautioned the organizers to be “as judicious as possible” in spreading out the pods to ensure social distancing.
“It's a great event, but you're right that people like to interact with it,” he said. “The spread is very important.”
This year's annual scavenger hunt, also sponsored by the Chatham Merchants Association, features “Oars in the Stores,” with painted wooden oars displayed in shops and businesses of association members throughout the community. The oars will be on display from July 3 to Labor Day. Scavenger hunt log books will be available at the downtown chamber information booth.