January 12, 2020
How My Artistic Practice Has Changed During the Pandemic
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I have been in higher education for 20 years. I have three graduate degrees and a PhD and my entire life as been about education and the arts. However, in 2018 the stress of teaching was becoming heavy and it was time for a change. In August of 2019, I resigned my full-time faculty status in order to pursue my love of the arts. Though I had been showing my art in this area since 1997, I felt that it was time for me to focus more on my art studio at ArtLofts and to expand my dream of becoming a full-time artist.
Though it took some time and a lot of work, I had started to see progress to my goal of becoming a full time artist. In March, I was hosting a pop up show curated by Kristi Capone in my studio, called Stitcherotica. I had just hosted Valentween 2020 at ArtLofts. I had won my first grant from the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance and had also taken the arts business course that they offered. It was all looking up…
And then, on March 13, 2020, ArtLofts closed its doors to the public due to Covid 19. Downtown St. Petersburg was deserted due to curfews. ArtWalks, shows and events stopped. The pop up show that was supposed to be featured for one month was trapped in my studio for three. We could not hold a formal reception and instead shifted to several video presentations featuring the art, artists and the curators. It was hard work, but successful – 10 of the 24 works managed to sell over that period. But the lack of direct interaction was difficult, as was the shift to online-only platforms.
I studied how to better represent myself via Etsy and updated my long-neglected shop. I revamped my website. I applied for the artist assistance grant and was awarded $500 to keep my studio going during the time of no sales. Show after show was cancelled, and attempts to sell art were few and far between.
For a time, I thought about giving up, but my heart knew I did not want to do this. I truly love the arts and everything that is involved in it. I have invested over 20 years of my life in the local art scene. One pandemic was not going to take this away from me.
The irony is that I ended up having to go back to a bit of a day job outside the arts. Luckily, my 20 years in higher education served me well – I was hired to do contract (adjunct) work for three colleges in Florida. Two were online, one was face to face. The stress of full-time faculty status was averted, the work schedule more flexible – and my commitment to the arts continues to grow.
We are preparing for Valentwe’en again this year. Yes, it is modified. Yes, we must wear masks and distance ourselves. But the arts need this, and so do I. I will not give up…. I will adapt to survive.
– Brandy Stark, Visual Artist and Educator