Neither pre- nor post-, but with-COVID. And so we find ourselves in the messy middle. While debate rages on about whether and how to reopen for business, how to reopen for life really, artists are navigating uncharted territory in an effort to not only survive, but thrive.
Artists and creators do plenty of work in solitude. That’s often when the magic happens, during periods of deep work without distraction. But then comes the time for an artist to show their work and find out how, and if, it has any impact on the viewer. What hits? What falls flat? What is just…meh?
With galleries and museums closed, artists suspending studio visits, and group critiques moving online, I have spent more time exploring creative expression and innovation on Twitter and Instagram. Artistic communities are pivoting and amplifying their online presence, and this is encouraging heightened conversation and engagement among artists and art lovers alike.
Here are several such groups and individuals:
NYC Street Photography Collective (NYCSPC) fosters conversation and exploration of photographing life on the streets of NYC and beyond. With New York “on Pause”, the collective has increased their online presence by featuring the work of street photographers on their Instagram, holding group member print sales, and moving monthly critiques from their physical gallery in Brooklyn to Zoom. They recently launched a YouTube channel to showcase a variety of photographers discussing their approaches to documenting life in the streets. While I miss NYCSPC monthly meet-ups to photograph street life and in-person crits, I admire their commitment to the community via these virtual events.
B&H Photo has transformed their Event Space from physical location in Midtown Manhattan to a streaming space online. Their calendar features events hosted by guest photographers and B&H employees who lead workshops on lighting, editing software, how to find your creative voice, and more. Photographers like Derek Fahsbender actively promote and participate in these events in an effort to foster continued interest in photography, compare/contrast gear, and encourage fellow creators not to lose their way artistically during this slog of a shutdown.
Sonia Goydenko, street photographer and instructor, founded @showmeyourduds to highlight how we can learn from failure. It is an examination of the work behind the work. Photographers are encouraged to submit a series of photos, showing both the losing and winning images, along with a narrative explaining how they arrived at the final image. The value in learning from others’ creative processes and how they work through failure transcends any isolation order or economic halt.
Museums are innovating and offering access to works and texts rarely seen. From Twitter super-user and self-described “picture geek” Andy Adams, I learned about Seeing Through Photographs from MoMA via Coursera. Course materials include scans of text and photographic plates, links to artist interviews and short films, and live discussions (April 30th’s event featured Sarah Meister in discussion with Sally Mann regarding the new exhibition of Dorothea Lange’s images at MoMA). Since I’ve lessened my photo treks through NYC these days, it seemed an ideal time to brush up on photographic history, explore underrepresented artists’ work, and improve my visual comprehension. The course has pushed me to re-examine images more critically while continuing my exploration of photographing New York City.
Artist Matthew Burrows founded @artistsupportpledge (ASP), a way for artists to promote the discovery and sale of their art. Artists post works on Instagram for $200 maximum and use the hashtag #artistsupportpledge. After selling at least $1000 of their own work, participating artists commit to spend 20% on purchases from other participating artists. I discovered the movement via artist David King. King has produced a plethora of works over the past several weeks at prices far below the prices his works typically command. King’s ASP works sell so quickly I have not been able to snag one for myself (yet). He also posts the works that he has been purchasing from other artists, some of whom are selling their art for the first time. The movement engenders mutual support, promotion, discovery, and even a little FOMO.
While these projects and programs are no substitute for the energy of gallery visits, face-to-face discussions, and in-person purchases, they provide alternative outlets for communication, education, and commerce. I hope these endeavors live on, even after we figure our way out of this in-between state.
Any creative communities or projects you’ve noticed shifting and thriving? Please share in the comments.