There’s no question about it: the art world, along with the rest of the world, has been disrupted in a way that could never have been anticipated.
Culture wars dictate that we should choose between two evils: by either hustling harder than ever, or remaining purely passive by smashing the “Yes, I’m Still Watching” button on Netflix for the 5th time in one day.
If there’s one thing we can learn from the art pros out there, it’s that this period of social-isolation can be used however you need – whether that includes going about things in a business-as-usual type of way, starting new projects, or taking time to rest and reflect.
No matter which path you pursue, you’ve got your work cut out for you in this new normal. To gain some perspective, we asked several art world professionals how they’re doing right now – how they’re staying sane, what they’re working on, and how they’re taking care of themselves.
Lizzie Gill, multimedia collage artist
“During this time of isolation I’ve been creating editorial pieces, which is a part of my studio practice. Creating work for the New York Times and The Atlantic as news unfolds has allowed me time to sit with other stories artistically. Doing so is a reminder to search outside my own experience, particularly when this disease has such a global reach.”
Helping MFA Students Produce Their Thesis Shows
“During Armory Week I was asked by an MFA student to be one of the people to do a final critique for his group. Within a week, it became clear that it was unlikely the show would happen, and as he and I were discussing what he was doing, I began thinking about the lost opportunity for MFA students, and also for collectors and curators and how I could try to bridge the gap.
With The Olympia Project, I was simultaneously trying to figure out the best way to go online with the exhibitions I had planned, and in order to try to make sure the artists I work with get *some* exposure during this time, although it’s limited in a lot of ways. I had begun moving things onto Artsy a month earlier, so at least I had that.
I reached out to Julia Speed, a Director at Luhring Augustine, and a close friend, to see if she would be interested in co-curating a show based off of an open call for MFA students and she was. So then I reached back out to the artist I had been speaking of to see what he thought of the idea (he loved it). We put together an open call and launched two weeks ago – tomorrow is the final day to submit.
We didn’t decide in advance how we were going to approach the curatorial aspect, because we didn’t know if we’d have 5 submissions, or 50. At the moment, we have 30 from students at schools across the country. I’m really excited by the diversity of the work, and the students’ backgrounds.”
Typically, being from New York and living in New York, I get a very Northeast view of the MFA world. I go every year to Hunter, Columbia, NYU, Pratt, Yale, at a minimum, but I rarely have the opportunity to see work from students at places like UC Davis, Michigan, Florida State, or the University of Nebraska.
Our plan is to let everyone know our selections by next Wednesday, and have the show online the following week. It will be on Artsy, and on olympia-project.com. Additionally, on Instagram, we’ll do some kind of feature for each artist.”
Nourishing her own art practice.
“As for my own practice: I started just with things I had, which wasn’t at all what I thought. I can’t find the paints or good paper that I am sure I have in a box somewhere, but I found high quality color paper, some good pens, colored pencils, and markers, and collage materials, so I started with collage. Then, on a grocery outing, I saw some paints and grabbed them, so I’ve been experimenting.
They’re not great, but better than nothing. I’m not working towards any particular goal, although I’ve promised a few people I’ll send them something small, it’s more about giving myself something to do that isn’t a screen, or proscribed, just an outlet.”
Marina Granger, Founder, The Artist Advisory
“My company, The Artist Advisory has always existed online. I’ve been meeting with clients over Zoom since the beginning – for over two years now. So, my day to day work life has been relatively the same. I just don’t attend events at art institutions anymore and I don’t do in-person studio visits. I still do virtual visits and it’s such fun! Here are a few things I’ve done during ISOLATION:
Started a Podcast because COMMUNITY is KEY!
I started a podcast called The Artist Advisory Hotline and just interviewed a major art gallery director from NYC. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I didn’t start it just because I have extra time in isolation. I don’t – I’m busier than ever. I started this podcast because I realized that your network is your power. So, I decided to tap into my network of art experts and professionals, which I grew from working in the NYC Art World since 2004. The goal of the podcast is to share valuable advice with artists. We should be up on Apple Podcasts in a couple of weeks!
Public Speaking in a New Arena
One of my biggest goals for 2020 was to do more public speaking. Due to this pandemic, I also had a slew of speaking gigs canceled. I was going to speak at the Tom Tom Festival in Charlottesville VA – this was going to be such fun because Hillary Clinton was also booked for this event, just on a different day than me! I was also going to speak at all three Superfine! Art Fairs in NYC this May – but that is now postponed as well. So, I recently did a webinar with Superfine! Art Fair exhibitors – with other experts and it was pretty cool to speak to new people and meet new people virtually. I also have been getting organizations reaching out to me to participate in online summits.
Feng Shui Your Office/Studio
Also, organizing and Feng Shui-ing my home office. This is something I do for artists that I work with. I go into their studios and ensure they have a good flow of energy and are utilizing their lucky directions. You should look up your “Kua” number and see what your success direction is. Be sure to paint facing that direction, meet people facing that direction, and that there is no clutter or garbage in that direction.
Gratitude Morning Practice
It’s such an uncertain time right now. But, you know, the future has always been uncertain. The thing that I do every single day is a morning gratitude practice. I got this idea from author and speaker Gala Darling. She suggests that you should record a voice memo on your phone in three parts; what you’re grateful for in the present tense, what your intention for the day is in the past tense – as if you have already done it, and what your future desires are in the present tense – as if you are living them now. This puts me in such a good mood and gets my mind in a positive mindset. That’s so needed in this time when the media is bombarding you with deadly statistics.”
Rachel Klinghoffer, multimedia artist
“With two young children, no school or childcare, my solo time in the studio is even more precious. My practice changed when I had children and this is another seismic shift and I am adjusting. Makers got to make. I get it in when I can during nap times and after they are asleep. I have a fire in my belly to make that won’t go away. This keeps me focused and thinking forward.
My love for the arts is giving me structure. Each day I go through the alphabet with my kids. I ask my followers on instagram to name artists with the letter of the day. I’m giving myself a deeper education about artists I already know and learning about new musicians and artists as well. This game gives direction for a daily project with my kids but most importantly offers a way to connect with others. I show my kids pictures of artists, talk about their process, then we make. I get a lot out of watching my three year old draw and paint and I know that is coming back to the studio with me.
I started a Marco Polo group for artists, Digital Crit Club about a couple weeks into shelter in place. There are 55 artists in the group from around the world. Many leave video messages, photos, text they are interested in during these crazy times. I am finding connecting with other artists engaging, calming, exciting. Seeing what others are making, reading, doing, texting with friends, FaceTimeing with the people I love when I can, connecting with people over all reminds me of this as a collective experience. There is comfort in knowing we are all going through this together.”
Sara Wenokur, artist & floral designer
“I definitely have more time to work on personal projects…I was working as a floral designer for my day job prior to the social distancing policies, and so, unfortunately, I can’t do that from home.
I’m resisting the pressure to be productive with all of this free time, so I’m just working on projects I’m excited about and experimenting with different materials.
My partner has been working from home and we’ve been going on morning walks — Seeing everything bloom and blossom around me is keeping me inspired and hopeful.
I don’t know what we would do without our two dogs, Helma and Kramer. They bring me so much joy and its always a nice excuse to take them out on a walk. I have also been watching a lot of bad reality tv – which I was doing before all of this, but now I am extra grateful for that type of mental escape.
Gardening in our small backyard is also a wonderful way for me to unwind. It’s so nice seeing all of the bulbs I planted in the fall starting to bloom.”
Feeling better yet? We are. There’s no wrong answer to the question of “what are you up to?” right now. So make your checklist (or not), get ready for the day (or don’t!), and remember to go easy on yourself.