March 17, 2020 | By Jennifer Ring
Making Art in a Time of Social Distancing
A new series
. . .
Ever since Tuesday March 10, when the Florida Department of Health announced that two people in Pinellas County tested positive for COVID-19, I’ve been receiving a lot of emails. First, they were emails about how Tampa Bay area museums would be cleaning more often. Then it was cancellations of large events. By week’s end, most of our art museums and galleries had announced their temporary closure. I had to create a separate “COVID-19 news” Gmail folder for all the emails.
As I wrote my latest article, about Andrea Assaf’s upcoming artist residency at the MFA (originally scheduled for the first week in April), the museum was in the process of changing all its plans.
On March 12, the MFA sent an e-newsletter informing patrons that they’d canceled all programs and events through the end of March. Then, on Saturday March 14, I received an email from the MFA’s Executive Director Kristen Shepherd notifying the press that the MFA is temporarily closed to the public, effective immediately.
When will they open back up? We’ll all just have to wait and see. I’m still hoping Assaf’s residency happens sometime before Art of the Stage closes May 10, but only if it’s safe.
Just in Pinellas County, The Dalí is closed at least through March 31. The James Museum announced their temporary closure on March 16 — they haven’t yet decided when they’ll reopen. The St. Petersburg Arts Alliance canceled trolley service for the March 14 Second Saturday Art Walk. The Morean Arts Center canceled their Spring Break Art Camp. Florida CraftArt announced their temporary closure, from March 16 through 29. The Dunedin Fine Art Center postponed their 40th Annual Garden Party. Both American Stage and freeFall theaters suspended all performances until further notice. And yesterday, The Studio@620 announced that they were postponing all events until May 1.
The first thing I want to say, to all of these institutions, is “thank you for your sacrifice.” As someone who is at high risk for both acquiring and dying of COVID-19, I’m grateful that Tampa Bay’s cultural institutions are doing what they can to help slow the spread of this virus.
It’s not just museums who are being affected either. Many artists who make a living selling their artwork at large public events are now forced to cope with decreased sales. I was first clued into this by one of John Gascot’s Facebook posts — it was a repost of something Sanford FL photographer Greg Coleman said, “If you know someone whose income depends on crowds, meetings, travel, bazaars, festivals, concerts, or other types of events, check on them in this time. Support them however you can.”
I’m lucky that writing can be done anywhere, including in my home while I self-isolate. I can still interview artists by phone, and that’s what I plan to do throughout this epidemic, whether those artists have work in galleries now or not.
To Pinellas County artists, photographers and independent filmmakers, we want to talk to you about your new projects.
To Pinellas County artists, community art centers and museums, Creative Pinellas would like to know if you’re holding any online art classes.
To art lovers and consumers, we want to give you stories and show you art, even if you can’t see it in galleries or theaters right now.
That’s what this new Creative Pinellas series, Making Art in a Time of Social Distancing is all about — connecting the public to artists and art without risking anyone’s health. Stay safe out there.
Wordier Than Thou is hosting a Virtual Storytelling and Prose Open Mic
tonight from 7-9 pm, online.
Artists and arts organizations can send updates
or story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.