This week on KSMU's "Arts News" we hear from Avery Parish, coordinator of the First Friday Art Walk, about the impact of the pandemic and social distancing on the monthly Springfield arts event.
“As a community public event in an open space, especially in downtown where a lot of businesses are in close proximity, I feel like we have suffered quite a bit and we miss everyone so dearly,” said Parrish. “By not being able to see and visit and experience all the artists that we have on view, typically at a monthly basis, I do feel like the COVID-19 pandemic has for sure affected us. Absolutely.”
The March 6th Art Walk made it just under the wire, because the COVID-19 quarantining began in earnest by the end of the following week. There were no Art Walks in April or May, and the Walk originally scheduled for tonight, June 5, is also cancelled. But that doesn’t mean there’s no art to be seen either downtown or online, said Avery Parrish.
“There are a few venues have who have felt comfortable opening. And so, Obelisk (Home), Springfield Brewing Company, Bonsai Guy--so there's a few that are open on their own accord. It's just not like an official event, because people are still pretty wary of how they want to dedicate their space and the flow of things, just to make sure everybody's extra safe and careful.”
Actually, the Springfield Regional Arts Council and the Creamery Arts Center will provide an online event tonight in lieu of the Art Walk, according to Avery Parrish. “Yeah, we're doing a Member Show reception virtually. And it's going to be kind of a fun ‘artist happy hour.’ You can log on when you RSVP to the event on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/artwalksgf/). We'll give you the link to join that conversation. And that's from 5:00 to 7:00pm online.” The Arts Council’s Director of Exhibitions and Programs, Rachel Johnson, has “created a virtual exhibit of all of the artists that submitted art. So there'll be a link for that. And you can digitally ‘walk’ through a space that we've prepared with all of the art. It's really cool. We haven't done anything like it. So it was really exciting that she worked through that. And it's really great.”
And Parrish noted the Arts Council has been “continuously featuring art that either the (Art Walk) venues have had in the past, or they were planning on having features for” before the pandemic hit. “So we've really tried to keep that presence on social media, and tried to keep connected with the arts community and all of our followers and shares, so they have some reprieve from the daily barrage of information.”
Parrish said the Arts Council and the Art Walk have greatly appreciated seeing their online following grow, along with all the comments and sharing of the artwork. “I feel like people really miss it and wanted to come back. So that's actually been kind of a nice learning experience, even though we aren't together in person. I feel like they have definitely been more active online, which is really great.”
Asked to describe how she felt the individual artists in the area have fared during the pandemic, Avery Parrish said she has the impression there are two types of artists: those who, she said, “really enjoy the solitude, and they enjoy the time to really focus (on their art). But I also know that a lot of our artists, they feel things so deeply, and they’re very talented in expressing how they feel and what they’re going through. So we feel like they have been impacted. And I feel like they definitely miss collaborating with one another and going out in the community and showing what they're doing and getting that feedback. And so I do feel like artists definitely really miss being involved in and seeing one another. We try to keep in contact with them as much as possible. But we're just hoping that they're taking this time to utilize and in a few months will have some amazing art coming out of it!”
Avery Parrish said she had no idea if a July Art Walk would take place. “But we are definitely aiming for it. We're trying to give all of our venues tools and advice, and hear what they need from us, to help them feel more prepared. And we're hoping to embrace some of the social distancing guidelines, and kind of make it a fun thing versus an inhibition. So we're hoping for July for sure.”
Art patrons will want to check https://ffaw.org or the First Friday Art Walk Facebook page noted above. And, said Parrish, “we have a newsletter as well. So if you go to ffaw.org, you can sign up for that newsletter as well, and that goes out the week of First Friday. But social media is definitely the place to keep up with all the venues, including what First Friday is doing as well.”