Vulnerable, optimistic and community-spirited, Thank You, Artists in the Time of Coronavirus
Morgan and Roberta write about the "Artists in the Time of Coronavirus" project, a 5-month, continuous online exhibition of words and images by artists in the Philly region and in the Artblog orbit. The project makes them reaffirm their love of the generous souls who make art. Thank you readers for following along on the 56 posts with 350 artists submissions. Stay safe and stay positive.

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Glittery blue background with the words "THANK YOU / SALE" printed on in stencil print.
Artwork by Dudi, featured in “Artists in the time of Coronavirus” part 28. Courtesy Dudi.

Sudden and extreme isolation, gallery closures, unemployment and lay-offs — it was a dark time that cried out for a positive project. If we could, we hoped to bring together and give a platform to the Philadelphia art community during an uncertain and unsettling time. And honestly, we already missed interacting with artists. We were curious, how were they coping? Were they producing new work, or were the fear and isolation squelching their art impulse? We wanted to know. What we came up with was an open call, non-juried online exhibit, “Artists in the Time of Coronavirus.” — Morgan and Roberta

March 13th marked the beginning of Philadelphia’s lock-down, with everyone but essential workers quarantined at home. On March 19, we announced the call for what would be a free online art exhibit, open to all. We asked artists to send us two images of work (or studio shots or selfies or whatever represented them) and 250 words to express their thoughts and feelings about this unique time. That same day we received seven submissions. Eleven days later we had 168, an outpouring from artists eager to share their work and their stories and to feel “together” online while alone in the real world.

The submissions kept coming in steadily. We had no real idea how many artists would respond and were thrilled that so many did. And then, finally, in August, the flow of submissions became a trickle and then was gone. And on August 20 we ended the series. The pandemic was still raging and the Black Lives Matter protests for racial and social justice were occupying many artists minds and absorbing their energy and time. It was time to move on.

Our series published the works of ~350 artists. Fiber artists, abstract painters, landscape painters, photographers, digital artists, sculptors, portraitists, a wide range of materials and approaches — all was captured in the 56 posts we published. And the words that poured in, most of them newly written, were earnest and heartfelt expressions of everything from dismay, sadness, and acceptance, to humor, camaraderie and hope for the future. We love all the art we saw and are humbled that so many artists entrusted us with it. What really struck our hearts were the words written and shared, which embodied a spirit of determination to move forward. We learned that some artists were making art as usual; some were making art differently than before; some were unable to make art; some had had shows canceled; some were laid off. In spite of all the sorrow and desperation in the world, many of the artists thought outside themselves and remained optimistic and communitarian, offering support to each other and well wishes for the future.

As Artblog moves forward, groping our way to the post-pandemic world, we will hold fast to the Philly art spirit that is inclusive, optimistic and productive. We hope you will come with us.

Two soapy hands reaching their forefingers towards each other in front of a radially lit pink and purple background
Adrian Wojtas, “Soon Every Touch Will Be Divine” Courtesy Adrian Wojtas.

OUTTAKE FROM THE SERIES

We love every single one of the submissions and want to shout out all the participating artists for being heroes, survivors, leaders and inspirers at this difficult time. Below are a couple excerpts that we call to your attention to in case you missed them. Read them all here. If you’re searching for a particular artist by name, use Artblog’s search box and their particular episode should come up in the results.

…In this act of painting is a small declaration: I am still here, observing life through brushstrokes. I am not required to be strong and outspoken all the time; I just need to live.
Chau Nguyen AITOC 56

…At the moment, since all of my work involves people, that’s hard to do. I realized how important it is to be flexible. There is always something I can do. For the community, I’m trying to post helpful information regarding mental health tips on Instagram and helping out with my neighbours when I can.
Barbara Cole AITOC 43

…Like many others dealing with COVID-19, powerlessness has engulfed me way more than usual. That’s why virtual space appeals right now, accommodation for humanity to be as complex and utterly complicated as it wants. Our emotions can be manifested out loud, and once they bounce off other wavelengths we realize how deserving our stories are to be told…If anyone wants to construct dreams together or just talk without any “point B”: email me at nickmoncy@gmail.com I’m @nickformiles or @nickmoncy.other on Instagram. and nickmoncy.squarespace.com is my website! Take care. Take space. You are deserving of others’ time! And your own.

–Nick Moncy AITOC 14

March 11th I took a Concord Bus to celebrate my sisters 76th birthday in Philadelphia on Sunday. A three day layover in New York City would be ample time for friends, art and a walkabout. That Wednesday I was aware of the Coronavirus and that New Rochelle was a hot spot. Along with my toothbrush were two handy pocket sized sanitizers. On arrival I walked from East 42nd Street, inhaling the sights and sounds over to 27th and 10th Avenue. Had a great dinner with friends and discussed the virus. First thing Thursday bused uptown to MOMA next to a woman dressed in plastic, wearing a mask. The Judd show was fantastic. For me it’s all about The Multicolored Works. Friends came over for dinner that night and we discussed both Judd and COVID – 19. My host after walking the dog Friday the 13th morning described the 8AM line at Whole Foods as going around the block. Like a black and white episode of The Twilight Zone everything around me was starting to shut down. Managed to see the Al Taylor drawing show at the Pierpont Morgan Library which was very quiet. Stop. This is when I realize I cannot continue. it would not be appropriate or prudent. No to visiting Invisible City show, Philadelphia friends or family. Caught the 8AM bus and retreated back across the Maine border. For 14 days I have been staying as far far away as possible from my wife.
–Robert Younger AITOC 26
https://www.theartblog.org/2020/05/artists-in-the-time-of-coronavirus-an-ongoing-virtual-exhibition-part-26/

Watercolor of Aaron FaceTiming their dad.
Aaron Bos-Wahl, “Dad facetime quarantine” Courtesy Aaron Bos-Wahl.
Tags

artists in the time of coronavirus, Barbara Cole, Chau Nguyen, Nick Moncy, robert younger, thank you artists

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