You might think artists have little to offer when people are concerned about building deep pantries. But the need for comfort, inspiration, and beauty are always there.
|Inelegant? Of course. Effective? We'll see. It's better than sitting around wringing my hands.|
Last winter I made the decision to stay home in Maine and run a gallery out of my studio in Rockport. I bought a full-page ad in the Maine Gallery Guide, devised a schedule of revolving shows, and put up picture hanging rails. Then American retail collapsed.
There’s no foot trade here or anywhere else. On the other hand, all the plein air events I would have done have been canceled or gone virtual. There's no point in second-guessing my decision. All I can do is keep asking myself what I can do to make viewing art easier for my clients.
Visitors to Maine are now subject to a 14-day quarantine. Retail establishments are just starting to open now, with very stringent rules. Even if that weren’t the case, I don’t want people in my studio-gallery. It’s attached to my home.
|It's a work in progress. Today's task is reworking the ladder sign so it's more readable.|
I never thought I’d be grateful for the years I spent hawking paintings at art festivals, but the experience has sure come in handy. Setting up an outdoor display has been trial-and-error and it isn’t perfect. The awning over our driveway is shorter than my walls, and there’s no way to angle them.
I learned this the hard way. The wind on the coast is ever-present. Yesterday was very breezy. I set up the walls to see how they’d fare before I put paintings on them. They did just fine—until the art was added. It created a sail. That was an expensive mistake.
Today will be another test, because I can’t tell if it’s going to rain or not. With 5000 miles of inlets and coves on the Maine coast, it’s impossible to predict what will happen when moisture-laden clouds cross from land to sea. My tear-down last night took just seven minutes. That’s far faster than I ever managed on the road, because I can just wheel the walls into the garage.
If this works, I might just replace my old festival tent, which I gave away last year.
The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about Wegmans’ response to COVID-19. Wegmans is my hometown grocery store, now gone superstar. As a privately-held business, they can react creatively and quickly without having to answer to shareholders. Their response boils down to common sense. They figured out that their customers’ biggest concerns were safety and security. They changed their merchandise to meet those needs. Gone were the gourmet sauces and food tastings; in were ten-pound bags of pasta.
|Eventually I realized that the weights on festival tents are to prevent them from going airborne; the problem here is stopping the walls from twisting. Hooking them to the garage solved that.|
You might think artists have little to offer in a world where people are concerned about building deep pantries. But the need for comfort, inspiration, and beauty are always there, perhaps never more so than when times are difficult. Our challenge is to figure out those needs and how we can best answer them.
How can we make viewing art a pleasant experience when people can’t get to our galleries? The internet will help, certainly, but we are all hungering for continued personal contact without risk. I’m groping through this just as you are; your ideas and thoughts are, as always, appreciated.