As the art scene grounded to a halt in March due to the coronavirus outbreak, museums, galleries, and artists scrambled to make sense of the implications of this new reality. With the arts deemed “non-essential”, we were sent to our homes to look at and make art, watch movies, read books, write stories, and all those other non-essential things.
We reached out to some local artists to see how they are coping and to get their thoughts on this unprecedented time.
Bruce Helander has been around for a long time as an artist, curator, writer, and man about town. He says “I left Palm Beach 25 years ago to move into one of the first downtown lofts above Starbucks as a pioneer of sorts. As artists, we were attracted to the energy in general and also to those who lived and worked downtown. In general, artists anywhere must be in cities to survive and the support which naturally comes with that has temporarily vanished. The energy is still there but without people on the streets its oddly distracting.”
“My studio in the Whitney Building is currently closed and my staff is working from home. The pandemic closed my show in New Orleans, canceled a show in Houston as well, and an exhibit of paintings in Tokyo. So in order to survive through this, I am utilizing the time to catch up on writing and curating and will offer private studio visits by appointment in the future.
While this has been obviously disruptive to everyone there is no magical solution but to continue pushing to produce new work. Artists, luckily, in general, must practice their craft alone and naturally self-isolate! An artist’s self-employed self-exiled life is not always an easy road to take but artists are an unwavering and determined group and they have always endured so I have great optimism that our community of creative energy will survive and prosper.”
Elle Schorr, curator, artist, and producer of the Art Salons at the Armory Art Center, says “there are so many uncertainties, as now every week we have different information. I had just come off curating two big shows in March so I was planning on taking downtime to relax and just be at home. Well, I certainly got my wish.”
Trying to think about the big questions of the future of the arts is just too big right now. We have put our Art Salon talks online. What I have decided to do is learn more about technology, new apps and programs like Zoom to see how they can be helpful. There is so much virtual out there but it in no way substitutes for the real thing. We need to find a balance.”
Schorr has completed the first of the colleges she’s hoping to do as a response to our new shared virtual lives, using photos taken over the year from her collection. She calls it “Virtual Hangouts.”
“The impact this has had on my career is approaching immeasurable,” McInnis says. “Cancellations, the tightening of budgets, the loss of momentum, and the canceling of existing contracts can be overwhelming if I let it be. Not to mention that much of my client base is what I would consider small businesses and/ or entrepreneurs. If they do not survive, my commercial business will dry up.
With that said, McInnis is focusing on what is next for him and his artistic endeavors. Covid-19 lead him to think of the art scene as a whole as well. “The first step for both will be to band together with everyone and help each other. I am big on referrals and this will become even more important as my cohorts and clients will be all in various states of disrepair. I foresee a good bit of bartering as well, which is something I have always valued and participated in,” he McInnis. Our art should speak to strengthen our community and give hope. Our art should also rise up to spark change in the things we find inadequate in our society, our government, and even ourselves.
As far as business is concerned surrounding art shows, public art, and opportunities in general; McInnis hopes that artists can bounce back to produce a new wave of poignant work that inspires and makes us think and feel.
Some of the local galleries are putting their new shows online such as Habatat Glass Gallery. You can see the fantastic glassworks the gallery has on display in their luxe showroom in Northwood.
The Norton is closed until further notice but with Norton from Home you can see the new exhibits including the knockout Rauschenberg survey, and collections, watch podcasts, talks, and see behind the scenes features. There are audio tours and teacher resources.
So what the future looks like is unknown, but with artists sequestered in studios and the internet to keep things connected, a digital art world can keep things connected for now.
Thoughts from local artists in times of the coronavirus crisis