Creating art is often a solitary experience, yet most artists want and need contact with other artists. The usual forums include on-site classes, art shows, critique groups, and visits to art museums. The coronavirus at first left many local artists alone in their studios. As the pandemic has stretched on, though, artists have reached out to one another in creative ways.
Local printmakers and longtime friends Anita Feld, Maria Green, and I have been practicing and honing our art for many years. We began to meet once a week via Zoom to share tips on techniques and learning opportunities. We also have spent time critiquing one another’s work and exploring new ways to print without a press.
Painter Judi Babcock heads the Artist Support Group of the Bedford Arts and Crafts Society (BACS). When Covid-19 struck, Judi moved the members’ meetings onto Zoom. For months now, the participants have met every other week, sharing their work and receiving welcome feedback. BACS also has sponsored Zoom meetings that allow members to share ideas for art and craft projects and other strategies for coping with the pandemic’s challenges.
When Suzanne Schmuhl Koller started Operation Feed the Soul as a way to support healthcare workers and community restaurant owners, many local artists stepped forward. Some contributed money, and others created original greeting cards that made their way not only to the health providers but also to recovering patients. Many artists have also made cards to send to friends and family around the country to say hello and “I care.” Still others have shown that they care by sewing colorful face masks.
Local ceramicist Ronnie Gould says of her experience, “As a ceramic artist, initially I faced a creative wall. It was hard to find the energy to sift through my feelings, let alone express them. Eventually, though, I found I was able to start processing how I was feeling by turning back to my work.” She continues, “The pandemic has become a source for new ideas. I’ve created pieces symbolizing the difficulty of isolation as well as the absurdity of hoarding items such as toilet paper.”
Ronnie adds, “I’m used to working alone in my studio, so on a daily basis it doesn’t feel different from any other time. Thanks to today’s technology, I’ve even been able to gather for art workshops and meetings. But I miss the in-person interactions, hugs, and inspiration of friends, family, and fellow artists.”
Artist Jean Hammond’s latest project is building her skill in watercolor painting. She says, “I had decided to take classes and workshops in watercolor and drawing and to work on some new bookbinding ideas this year. It didn’t take long for things to change. When the stay-at-home order came out, everything was postponed and then postponed again. My watercolor class went virtual, and the online classes worked out well.” Jean was also taking a yearlong creativity workshop that had been meeting in person but started meeting virtually. She says, “It wasn’t too hard to make the transition since we had worked as a group until then, but we could all feel the difference not being together.”
Bedford artists Chris Wojnar and Janet Powers have also been meeting together for encouragement. Chris and Janet connect online and have also tried making art together while socially distancing. Chris says, “During this pandemic, I’ve needed to focus on hope. Inspired in part by the children who have made art for their windows and chalk drawings on the driveways, and by Emory Carroll drumming throughout town, I made a peace pole for my yard.”
Janet Powers’ paintings originate in response to the natural environment. Her mini-sketches express ideas that she has been exploring as a way to visually communicate the complexities of nature and humanity’s critical need to shift and rebuild our relationship with nature.
Artist Martha Brill, too, has found inspiration for navigating through
these strange times. In January she started a year-long project with a deck of 5″ by 7″ playing cards. She relates, “My goal was to paint or collage one card each week. I found I liked making four cards at a time with a single theme. It’s been interesting for me to see how I can vary each series. So far I’ve made 7 series of 4 cards each.”
In addition, Martha completed a small art project this summer for the Woods Hole Public Library. Every summer the library sponsors a community art event and distributes materials to anyone who wants to participate. Each person (or family) creates something with the material and then gives the finished work back to the library to be auctioned off in a fundraiser. This year, old card-catalog cards were distributed. Martha took a small stack and made two accordion books. “It was fun to do and also fun to see what others had created,” she comments.
No matter how these and other local artists are coping with the new normal, they are a creative and imaginative group. They will continue to make art in their own unique ways. We look forward to the possibility that they will soon be able to share with us the work they have completed over the past several months—perhaps in a show titled What We Created During the Pandemic.