On March 30th, 2020, it was Vincent Van Gogh’s 167th birthday. On the morning of March 30th, 2020, his painting The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884 was stolen from the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam where it was on display. My first thought—how apt a birthday present in this COVID-19 season. My second—somebody now at least gets to enjoy the painting while the museums are closed.
Some days within this disaster, I wake and am able to proceed nearly at “normal.” I dress, I complete my Orange County Arts Commission tasks remotely, and I feel lucky to be able to help provide resources for artists in a tumultuous period. But many days I cannot proceed, filled with overwhelming grief for the many forms of loss our communities are facing.
How to even feel a sense of community when its physical reminder is absent? How to feel a sense of possibility when those who regularly remind us of its presence—the artists—are stuck inside, out of view? And what a bizarre and frightening time to be an artist, those of us not victims of stolen Van Gogh paintings included. How many gigs, galleries, concerts, contracts have been cancelled? How many arts and artist supporting jobs ended? (hint) The economic impact of this virus is and will be staggering.
Yet, I look to art and artists for guidance now more than ever. Artists understand better than anyone how to carry emotional complexity—that grief and hope can be held simultaneously and we need not pick one “truth” in which to live. Artists show us how to imagine possibility and unexpected creation when reality feels cemented into place. Artists teach us how to gather ourselves into direction when the external world feels bent against any such intentions. Artists remind us that to be in physical isolation and quiet can be necessary and beneficial even when uncomfortable. And artists continually show us that humans will surprise us with their adaptability in difficult situations. I look to art right now for help recognizing the grief of our situation and generating simultaneous determination to continue despite it all. I look to artists in this time not because I presume they will perform social duties in a time of need. Rather, I note the above as patterns of behavior I have seen rise unbidden, instinctively, and I want to express deep thanks for those who have been able to give their art and creative philosophies during COVID-19.
Orange County’s artists and art organizations have more than risen to the challenges of our current pandemic. Every day I am amazed by the quantity and quality of joyful artistic community they bring to us even while we are all staying home in health-conscious isolation. Here’s a small sampling of Orange County artistic events and activities you can explore from the safety and socially conscious confines of your home:
Peruse the Ackland’s About the Art guides to learn about every work “on view,” try the teacher resources with your kids at home, and search the collection database of over 19,000 objects. Additionally, check out the selection of 3D models of Ackland objects—zoom in, explore surface textures, and look at forms from every angle. Ackland also offers a packet of close looking, writing, and drawing activities to help your student or child learn to observe, interpret, and reflect upon what they see. Each activity can be modified per age or grade level and can be done individually or with a classmate or family member.
The ArtsCenter’s ArtSchool is moving online! ArtSchool instructors have created new classes, in disciplines from printmaking and fabric to writing and mixed media, that you can take from home using Zoom.
Join Bakova Gallery for their debut virtual exhibition, interview, and performance series on Facebook Live. The series will feature all types of talent, visual artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, actors, and so on.
While the Chelsea Theater is temporarily closed for the time of COVID-19 in accordance with public health guidelines, they have begun a streaming service which you can enjoy from home via the internet. One ticket is good for a five-day pass to see one movie, and your purchase supports the Chelsea Theater.
In lieu of being able to visit the art physically in the gallery, join the FRANK Gallery for a virtual look into their March/April show. This exhibit features member artists and painters, Carroll Lassiter and Nerys Levy and guest artist furniture maker John Parkinson.
Hillsborough Arts Council took their Parlor Concert Series on air with the help of WHUP, who agreed to host Thomas Rhyant live on air on March 29th during Bob Burtman’s program, Root’s Rampage, from 7-10pm. Thomas played a portion of this show live, and it was free for all to access via radio at 104.7FM or streaming online at whupfm.org.
As artists take to livestreams and videos, IndyWeek is documenting the archive emerging before our eyes in The Stream Warriors article series. This series is usually dedicated to collecting things artists have already done for your quarantine-viewing pleasure.
Every Monday and Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., Aaron Keck on 97.9 The Hill and Chapelboro.com, in collaboration with the Orange County Arts Commission, will be playing a single Orange County artist over the course of an hour as part of Radio Concerts on The Hill. Listen to your favorite local artists perform live music at a socially safe distance!
The Sun is offering free trial offers to their award-winning Chapel Hill-based literary publication. They’ll send your first issue of The Sun for free with no subscription obligation, and you’ll receive instant online access as well.
Several bands based in the Triangle have collaborated on a Spotify quarantine soundtrack featuring tracks by Triangle artists such as Mandolin Orange, Sylvan Esso, and more.
Submit your creative writing to UNC’s short story machines. Eight short story dispensers are scattered across UNC-Chapel Hill as part of a collaborative partnership with UNC Press, the Department of English & Comparative Literature, UNC’s Creative Writing Program, and Arts Everywhere. Built especially with the Carolina community in mind, the dispensers are customized to feature two buttons—“Carolina Stories” and “Global Stories.” The “Global Stories” button features a catalog of short stories from around the world. The “Carolina Stories” button publishes local authors who can submit their short stories, non-fiction and poetry.