The Award-Winning Sausalito Art Festival Goes Virtual in 2020 — Here’s Why It’s This Summer’s Can’t Miss Virtual Art Experience

After 67 years of holding its iconic art, music, and wine festival on the Sausalito waterfront, the Sausalito Art Festival is going online and virtual. “Last year, we decided to pause the festival in 2020 to plan for its future, but of course we had no idea that Covid-19 would shut down the entire art festival industry,” Sausalito Art Festival Foundation Board of Trustee Chairman Louis Briones said. After much consideration, the foundation decided to hold two events around Labor Day Weekend: an online silent auction featuring artists who have previously exhibited at the festival, and The Heart of San Francisco, a grand, outdoor theatrical production.

The annual Sausalito Art Festival is the main fundraiser for the Sausalito Art Festival Foundation. The foundation, a non-profit 501 (c) (3), is a cultural and fine arts organization with a mission to encourage, promote and support the arts for the community. Proceeds from the festival support Bay Area arts and community non-profits through grants, artist awards, scholarships and special projects. In recent years, the foundation has made signification contributions to support the arts, totaling over $1,000,000.

Jonah Green

Over the years, the Sausalito Art Festival grew to be one of the most important and award-winning art festivals in the United States. In the process, it became one of the most anticipated Labor Day Weekend events in the Bay Area. In 2019, artists from 41 states and 21 countries applied to exhibit at the festival, and people from throughout the Bay Area and the nation attended the three-day event.

In spite of its success, 2019 became a turning point for the festival. Increases in production costs, music costs, security costs, and an inability to consistently use its waterfront location became a hinderance to making a profit. “In 2019, we clearly saw that the festival could not continue using its historic business model and make a profit. We realized that substantial changes would be needed to address market realities and we either needed to reduce our costs, increase our revenue, or both,” Briones said.

Catherine Dzialo Halle
Catherine Dzialo Halle.

The board of trustees has been meeting weekly to address its business issues and after considering many variations, has settled on a plan to hold a reimagined, live festival in 2021. To do so, and to keep its yearly contributions to the art community active, the foundation is relying on donations like never before. 

For the first time in its history, the foundation does not have the ability to host the annual fundraiser due to COVID-19, but decided something still had to be done to help the artists. After looking at industry trends, which show the online art market doing well, the foundation decided to host a silent auction September 11-13 featuring artists who have previously exhibited at the festival. The auction will be completely online and feature artists from multiple artistic categories. Money raised during the auction will go the artists, with the foundation keeping a small commission to cover the cost of producing the event.

Ronna Katz.

For entertainment, the foundation partnered with Antenna Productions to kick off the festival on Labor Day, September 7. The Heart of San Francisco, a grand artistic production, will transform the Bay Area into a giant theatrical amphitheater with this interdisciplinary, audio-visual performance. The Heart of San Francisco will unite sky writing, boats, windsurfers, music, the Golden Gate Bridge, mountains, and islands for a performance that can be experienced in-person or via video streaming.

“More than just a three-day event, the Sausalito Art Festival is part of the community and this year, like never before, we will depend on the generosity of our community members to help support the mission of the Sausalito Art Festival Foundation. Each year, hundreds of people and organizations donate money, products, and their time to help make the festival a success, which in turn makes the foundation a success. This year, we are asking the community to purchase art at our online auction to help our deserving artists, and to make a tax-deductible donation to the Sausalito Art Festival Foundation,” Briones said.

To make a donation or learn more about the events planned over Labor Day Weekend, visit: