One week after Gov. Jared Polis made the decision to shutter all event venues and art centers to prevent the spread of coronavirus and help “flatten the curve,” local artists have been reevaluating what their careers will look like going forward. With no individuals to observe and purchase their work, with materials becoming more difficult to come by as craft stores close — and, of course, the ever-pressing need to put food on their tables — times have become tough in the local art world.
However, several Loveland artists are using this time to reassess business and creative models, with the ultimate goal of weathering the storm and coming out of this time of seclusion as a stronger arts community.
For painter and multi-media artist Brenda Pressnall, this means using social media to reach out to artists across the globe, share experiences and collaborate more.
“Loveland is very much art-centered,” Pressnall said. “I don’t want the arts community to suffer financially, but I think we’re all going to have a difficult time as we struggle our way through this. But I hope, as a community, we can see how art is valuable to us to get through this together. We (as artists) are staying in touch with each other and talking to each other about what we’re creating and how we’re responding and coping.”
In fact, there has already been an online revolution for artists put in place by the effects of the coronavirus. Artists, galleries and museums that have resisted making the switch to the online world for the sale and display of work are now working to build websites where visitors can watch videos of the gallery, live streams of artist discussions, digital sales and much more.
“I think there’s going to be a drastic shift which I don’t think (artists) have been comfortable making, but there are a lot of reputable places selling work online and this is the time to make that transition,” painter Jennie Kiessling said. “I think this is going to force it.”
Artworks Center for Contemporary Art (Artworks Loveland’s rebranded name) has been at the forefront of this online surge. The gallery closed to the public on March 13, making its latest exhibit “(She) Her/Self” available online. Exhibit curator Hamidah Glasgow, of the Center for Fine Art Photography, hosted a livestream event in lieu of the gallery opening, and the pieces have been featured on the Artworks social media pages.
Sarah LaBarre, Artworks executive director, has been posting video walk-throughs almost daily and said she is preparing to create a still photo gallery on the Artworks website.
“We’re active on social media as much as we can be and we’re going to be doing that for every show,” LaBarre said. “We’re putting up shows and taking down shows and acting like everything is normal, just no one is here to see it.”
For several artists, the imposed social-distancing has created a conflict. Although artists have plenty of time to spend in their studios, many have been unable to seek inspiration outside, hear feedback on their work or to gather supplies.
Much like during the Black Death in the mid-1300s, a proverbial renaissance of art could emerge from this time — or creators will be forced to turn their attention away from their work entirely.
“Artists are really flexible and artists are always hungry for the next opportunity to connect with someone about their art,” Pressnall said. “You don’t just suddenly make something by accident, you create it out of a part of yourself. We are the artists of the time. We are living in this time and whatever we create from now on and anything we create in this time is affected by it. But, will anyone come and see it?”
Kiessling said many artists tend to be introverted, so self-isolation may not be as tough for some, but a lot of artists are realizing how much they miss the artist community.
“I think for some people this is a really difficult time, in terms of balance and sanity,” Kiessling said.
As we are left to entertain ourselves without the ability to leave our homes, artistic works like literature and visual arts have become crucial. While it has become harder to support the creators that bring these works to life, it is vitally important to them and to the arts community that they inhabit to do so. By ordering pieces online, commissioning works and engaging with artists on social media, the cultural community can thrive, even in the age of corona.
“There’s someone out there looking at their four walls thinking that they’re sick of what they’re looking at,” Pressnall said. “Reach out to someone and say ‘your stuff makes me happy, intrigues me, challenges me, matches my couch, can we talk about something you’ve made or something you might make for me?’ That would be a wonderful thing.”