Skipping its first summer in 83 years, Stern Grove Festival turns to the archives

Stern Grove amphitheater, packed with attendees during the summer concert season. Photo: Cheryl Guerrero/Hoodline
By Camden Avery - Published on May 15, 2020.

Like every other festival or concert venue in San Francisco, the Stern Grove Festival, which for 82 years has provided the city with a program of free summer concerts, is now re-working its offerings in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Forced to cancel in-person concerts for the season, the festival is digging into nearly a century's worth of archives, and releasing them for would-be concertgoers to enjoy.

"It's just about keeping the lights on now," said Audrey Faine, Stern Grove Festival's director of marketing, "and switching over to this virtual platform to give people hopefully a little sense of the Grove."

Over the course of the regular festival season, Stern Grove will roll out themed groupings of digital concert footage from the archives every week for people to enjoy from home.

"We have themes that we're going to announce on May 31," Faine said, and every few weeks during the summer they'll announce and release more information on upcoming offerings progressively, "so that there's something to look forward to."

Faine said offerings would include archival footage, some of which dates back as far as the 1940s, and new collaborations with artists still to be announced.

She said the festival is using the year off to work on infrastructure, like broadening the Grove's perimeter and expanding the physical structure, which they were planning to do anyway.

The festival is still revising its needed budget down from the normal $2M. And though the festival is still open to donations, "we're not going to go away if we don't have a season this year," Faine said.

"Our need is not as critical as some teetering on the brink," she said, referring to venues and concert halls that have been financially devastated due to shelter-in-place restrictions. "We want to be sensitive to that."

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