We set out putting together the first Artscope of 2021 to serve as an introduction to as many new artists as possible through the covering of group exhibitions with the understanding and expectation that there would be government- ordered shutdowns and the lowering of capacities at those galleries and museums that were open.
In doing so, we worked to confirm that the shows at these venues would have a physical as well as strong online and virtual presence so that the participating artists received the best maximum exposure possible while visitors could also have a chance to attend in-person. In the long run, we’re hopefully helping to lay the groundwork for a stronger arts community in New England and the world.
We know that it isn’t going to be easy.
“The old ways and attitudes in society weren’t working,” Artscope publisher Kaveh Mojtabai told me as we explored what to expect and plan for in 2021. “The failure to address the economic and societal challenges of the past 10 months; be it in addressing the health challenges of the pandemic, keeping people from going hungry or asking them to stay in their homes despite a lack of money from having lost their job due to lockdowns, the lack of new opportunities for the younger generation without addressing education, climate change, tax structures, oligopolies and wealth inequality, infrastructure and manufacturing programs to create job growth, and individual transformation of ourselves toward each other, will need to be addressed as we climb out of the grip of COVID into the new world,” he said.
Last year, as we began to address our differences, be they economic, social, geographical or by the color of our skin, we remembered that we’ve always seen Artscope, and the visual and performing arts, as a way to encourage dialogue between ourselves and our neighbors that helps to reduce those cultural barriers. This is an opportunity to transform ourselves into a new society.
Forced to slow down in 2020, some people found ways to fill their time painting or exploring new areas of expression. Artists with gallery representation, studio visitations, and online presences attracted sales from people that had just finished long overdue home improvement projects as more time has been spent at home.
Others gardened, finally following through on those “if I only had the time …” plans. For me, gardening (or “urban backyard farming,” as I like to call it) has been the main way to keep sane over the past year.
That’s why I was especially happy to see the images accompanying Suzanne Volmer’s preview of Lucia deLeiris’ upcoming show in February at the Providence Art Club. The watercolor and oil paintings served as a substitute for what normally is a holiday drive through the farmland in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and seeing them as a group also reminded me how much I — and I’m sure you — miss seeing an artist friend lay out a collection of new paintings and drawings they’ve been working on prior to framing them.
Volmer also visited Attleboro Arts Museum prior to the opening of its Annual Members Show, walking through the 300 plus entries with director Mim Fawcett so that she could not only see the works selected as award-winning by guest juror Jennifer Jean Okumura, president of the National Association of Women Artists, Inc., Massachusetts Chapter, but that her own favorites would make it into her review.
James Foritano is back in our pages, having made his way down to Boston’s SoWa District to review Margaret Swan and Larry Pollans’ latest exhibition at Boston Sculptors Gallery. Flavia Cigliano kept out a close eye for the reopening of Phillips Academy’s Addison Gallery of American Art to see its “Wayfinding: Contemporary Artists, Critical Dialogues, and the Sidney R. Knafel Map Collection” exhibition. Through her visit to see “Unprecedented?” at Burlington City Arts, Marta Pauer-Tursi shares how nine artists addressed the events of 2020 and persevered, working in solitude.
Many have been hesitant to go back out to public spaces; Springfield Museums, as have many institutions, has done a spectacular job of making it possible to visit and explore “The Outwin: American Portraiture Today” virtually (though the work can be seen in person) and celebrating artists from New England and its surrounding states with its two-part “This is Us: Regional Portraiture Today” exhibition — the second portion of which opens on February 6 and is previewed here by Marguerite Serkin.
The Copley Society of Art’s first show of the year always serves to introduce a new class of artists to a wider audience (and long-established group of collectors) and its “New Members Show 2021” is no exception; while it will be online only, Rachel Flood Page writes that the 13-artist collection is well worth seeing and that through the gallery’s website and social media platforms, “We are invited to experiment with a new way of connecting with art.”
One of my own rare gallery visits of post-early March 2020 was to the College of the Holy Cross’ Cantor Gallery to see the “New Gilded Age: A Theatrical Installation by B. Lynch,” a wonderful multimedia treat for the senses. In the middle of a pandemic that has keep most of its students off the campus, Lynch and the Holy Cross staff has kept looking for ways to expand its audiences. It’s an extraordinary example of how an artist, with time and patience, and a venue, can bring a larger dream and vision to reality.
In her essay, “A United and Kinder World,” Nancy Nesvet looks at artists whose works will serve as a guiding path to changing an art world that is only beginning to open its doors more widely to female artists and people of color, and in some instances, being more open to presenting recent works — or timely installations or murals constructed onsite — that address current issues and events of the day. That will be crucial to attracting younger, socially-engaged audiences.
One thing we’ve learned and relearned over the past 10 months is how important collaborations are, both in producing visual and performing arts, and promoting and supporting them. Participating in the Thursday Arts Administration of New England “Sip and Chats,” we’ve heard how theater and dance groups have searched for fresh ways to keep themselves in front of their established audiences virtually and the challenge in building new audiences without live performances.
Zoom, Youtube and design software have allowed artists and performers around the world to collaborate virtually — Mojtabai shared a heartwarming video, now a meme, with me of a blind Turkish bongo-playing singer, Bilal Goregen, with a South African band singing the Finnish song “Ievan Polkka.” “Collaborative performances are happening right now,” he remarked. “When an orchestra or band is unable to congregate, many performers and artists are taking matters into their own hands, finding new relevant ways to bring their shows, as well as audiences, around the world together.”
Let’s continue striving to build a better world together in 2021.