We’ve invited a number of people to write brief reaction pieces to art critic Jerry Saltz’s recent piece in Vulture,“The Last Days of the Art World … and Perhaps the First Days of a New One”. The writers were also asked to comment about the effects the virus and resulting mitigation steps have had on their work. We are publishing these pieces over the next several months. Below are contributors and links to the individual pieces in this essay series, in order of publication. Additional contributors and links will be added as essays are published.
We’ve asked a number of people to write brief reaction pieces to art critic Jerry Saltz’s recent piece in Vulture,“The Last Days of the Art World … and Perhaps the First Days of a New One”. The writers were also asked to comment about the effects the virus and resulting mitigation steps have had on their work. We will be publishing these pieces over the next several months.
On February 28th, Quappi Projects opened an exhibition featuring nineteen artists from around the nation and world. Two days later, I flew to New York to exhibit at SPRING/BREAK during Armory week. I was in the city for eleven days; the New York fairs were well attended, but with each successive day the mood grew more worrisome. I left the city shortly before the quarantine began. After returning to Louisville, I honored a handful of appointments at the gallery until Governor Beshear’s directive to shutter all non-essential businesses. Our opening reception was well attended, but it is disappointing for both the artists involved and the viewing public that the show has been seen by so few people. This, however, seems a small concern when lives are at risk.
The current exhibition was scheduled to close April 10th, but will hang indefinitely for the time being. That sounds contradictory, but with no way to know what is to come, planning is impossible. Our next exhibition has been cancelled. The artist’s concept had a meaningful tie-in to the Derby and with its postponement we can’t simply wait for reopening. Moving forward, the rest of the schedule is up in the air. While I do feel utterly unmoored by the current reality, there is positivity in even the idea of future exhibitions. I am holding on to that hope.
Regarding my own painting practice, I still have studio access. Traveling there requires only a short drive, after which I work in isolation. It seems safe and I have spent a few days each week painting.
Photo by John Brooks of woman viewing Dorthea Lange exhibition at MoMA.
None of us know what the post-COVID landscape will look like – any prediction is just conjecture – but something will unfold. Saltz writes that Chef David Chang expects 90 percent of restaurants to close and “surmises the food world will return to the pre-internet days of the 1990s.” I can’t speak to that industry, but with regard to ours, a return to the “pre-internet” era is simply inconceivable. The internet and social media have connected us in previously unimaginable ways, and there is no disengaging from that. I have developed immensely rewarding relationships with so many artists – mostly young, mostly queer – and we support each other professionally and personally; this has felt even more meaningful throughout this collectively endured isolation.
Saltz is right that this crisis could exacerbate inequalities between winners and losers. “Losing” may now be synonymous with nonexistence. Those of us who have been functioning – and surviving – outside the art world’s uppermost echelons must continue to support each other however we can. As we always have, artists and gallerists will advocate for our position in a culture that often sees us as extraneous, but perhaps a greater appreciation for our contributions will emerge since so many have turned to the arts for solace. After this period of societal crisis and existential introspection, I hope more value and attention will be placed on complex work in lieu of the clever, flippant, and depthless. Undoubtedly, art and artists will adapt, abide. Collectors, too.
The COVID-19 pandemic landed hard in Kentucky, causing economic devastation and isolating artists at the moment they need community the most. Many have lost multiple gigs and opportunities they were counting on to pay essential living expenses. Others are newly unemployed, let go by beloved arts organizations or from service industry employment.
So far $75,000 has been raised from Great Meadows Foundation, Kentucky Foundation for Women, and two private donors to seed the new Artist Relief Trust (ART), which will provide $500 rapid-response microgrants to as many artists as possible, helping offset some of the dire monetary losses artists are facing.
Concern about the pandemic’s impact on artists brought together the coalition organizing this effort. ELEVATOR Artist Resource – a Louisville-based nonprofit whose mission is supporting and advocating for individual artists – is facilitating this timely and vitally important initiative. Coalition partners include: Great Meadows Foundation, Kentucky Foundation for Women, Actors Theatre of Louisville, KMAC Museum, Louisville Ballet, Commonwealth Theatre Center, Louisville Fringe, OPEN Community Arts Center and others, including individual artists and advocates from across the state – uniting artists across Kentucky and creating much-needed financial and community support.
“Our artistic community needs help right now. ART was created to make sure they get that help and get it quickly,” said ELEVATOR founder and board chair, Alison Huff. “We also wanted to make it easy, with money given directly to artists and no strings attached.”
Applicants fill out a short online form and submit one link to demonstrate their work. Awards are based on need, though, not a review of artwork, and funds can be used toward any living expenses artists are struggling to cover. Artists in any discipline who reside in the state of Kentucky, or in Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Scott, or Washington Counties in Indiana are encouraged to apply. Awards will be prioritized based on artists’ immediate needs for basic necessities like housing, food, and health care.
ART is committed to leveraging the $75,000 in seed money to raise even more for artists in need – and is asking YOU to be a partner. Donations large and small can be made throughGoFundMeto help make sure our community’s artists get the help they need right now. Anyone interested in more sizable donations or wanting to target certain demographics of artists can contact ELEVATOR for more information.
Another way ELEVATOR is helping to create community for artists is through a collaboration with Culturalyst, a New Orleans-based start-up that is building a national network of local artist directories, with Louisville being the first and a beta partner throughout the process. Culturalyst Louisville is an online directory for artists of all disciplines who reside in the Greater Louisville Area. In minutes, artists can create and activate a unique profile of their work including cover and profile photos, Google-indexed artist statement, links to all online properties, and a full gallery of work (songs, images, video). The directory is public and searchable by medium and genre, among other attributes. It also includes a “tipping” tool allowing artists’ fans to send money directly in support of their ongoing work, as well as a social-distancing-appropriate feature where artists can add their live-stream events to a centralized calendar. Artists or arts advocates who are interested in creating a Culturalyst site for other areas of Kentucky or beyond can contact ELEVATOR to facilitate the connection.
Get creative with ELEVATOR online using #ARTelevates, and watch out for some surprises on social media.
About ELEVATOR Artist Resource:
Developed as an outgrowth of Imagine Greater Louisville 2020, ELEVATOR is a hub for the creators of our community to access resources, professional development, and promotional tools to elevate their economic growth and community engagement. By helping individual artists have a collective voice to advocate for their interests and helping to remove barriers to access, ELEVATOR empowers our creative community to find sustainability in their practice and in their careers – in any discipline.