Art for the coronavirus era

  • One of local artist Dawn Marie Spaulding’s pieces. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Yarnell Glenn’s “Paper Castle.” CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Patricia Crosby’s photograph “Shut It Down.” CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/19/2020 8:18:24 AM
Modified: 11/19/2020 8:18:14 AM

When Lucinda Kidder, Vanessa Query and Jan Maher opened the LAVA Center, a performing arts, black box theater and community space on Main Street in Greenfield early this year, they never dreamed their vision would shutter within six weeks because of a pandemic — but that’s exactly what happened, so they had to re-imagine their dream.

At least for now.

“We had just got going when COVID hit,” Query said. “We immediately started doing virtual events, like an open-mic series and book club discussions, but in-person performances ended.”

Then in July, when they were allowed to reopen on a limited basis — still no performances — that’s when the co-coordinators came up with the idea for what is now known as the LAVA Center’s Saturday Salon, cultural events that are limited to a certain number of people in the building at one time, but at least in-person, albeit socially distanced with everyone wearing masks and taking the proper precautions.

“People can come and see art, listen to pre-recorded music and shop for items made by local artists, artisans and crafters,” Query said. “We always have an eclectic group, and now we’re adding our Community Art Show to the mix.”

The Community Art Show, organized by Lindy Whiton, Charmae Bartlett and Christine Diani, will be on display through Dec. 19. Every Saturday, the public will have the opportunity to view two or three artists’ work at each Saturday Salon. There will be 13 Western Massachusetts artists, artisans and crafters in all. The five photographers, four painters, three sculpture/installation artists and mixed media artist offer a diverse display of art and each centers around the theme of community.

“Community is a large topic for an art show, and it allows for tremendous differences in interpretation,” organizers wrote as the show’s statement. “Community was chosen because we have been separated from it so much during this pandemic, and we need to  find ways to keep it awake in our lives. This show is an attempt to safely bring people together and remind them not only of the importance of community, but of the benefits as well.”

Query said the artists who are participating are: Sarah Ahearn, Charmae Bartlett, Patricia Crosby, Christine Diani, Cara Finch, Jay Goldspinner, Rodney Madison, Gerard McGovern, Arthur Schwenger, Dawn Spaulding, JJ White, Lindy Whiton and Glenn Yarnell.

“We aren’t going to have a single, large reception,” Whiton said. “Instead, we’re highlighting different artists each week at the Saturday Salon where people can come into a COVID-safe environment and mingle at a distance while enjoying some really good art.”

The show began Nov. 7 and will continue through Dec. 19. The Saturday Salon is open from 1 to 4 p.m. each week. The artists showing on a particular week will be there to discuss their art, and some will sell some of their pieces.

Whiton, Bartlett and Diani opened the show on Nov. 7 with Patricia Crosby, Jay Goldspinner and Arthur Schaefer followed on Nov. 14. Glenn Yarnell’s art will be featured on Nov. 21, followed by Cara Finch and JJ White on Nov. 28. Sarah Ahearn’s and Dawn Marie Spaulding’s work will be featured Dec. 5, and the LAVA Center will announce those who will participate in the final two weeks at a later date.

“It’s more than an art show,” Query said. “People will be able to do their holiday shopping locally.”

She said the LAVA Center has done everything it can to make sure everyone will be safe, including installing an air purifier, supplying hand sanitizer as people enter and move through the building and is ready to provide information for contact tracing, if it becomes necessary.

“It’s a big space, so it allows for people to safely distance themselves from others,” she said.

Query said she’d love to see the Saturday Salon continue long after COVID is gone, but that will be something organizers will have to talk about at a later date. Currently, 24 people are allowed in the space at a time, including artists.

“Right now, people can come on a Saturday, view art, chill and have conversations that some haven’t had in eight months,” Query said.

Whiton, who was born and raised in Connecticut, attended Marlborough College in Vermont and moved to Greenfield in 1978 when she went to the University of Massachusetts Amherst to obtain her doctorate, co-founded the Literacy Project in 1994 and got interested in photography.

“I was so thrilled to take part in this,” she said. “The first week we saw people from 19 to 90 years old stop in to look at the art. People have been cooped up for so long. This is a good, fun time while practicing what we need to stay safe.”

Whiton said the organizers thought the theme “community” was a good one, because it’s what people are missing so much at this point.

“Everything has changed, including how we do art shows,” she said. “There’s no big opening, no food, a limited capacity of people at one time. But we figured that didn’t have to stop us. We accept that these shows are going to be a ‘slow drip’ of people, rather than the typical full house. We just want people to feel comfortable and enjoy.”

Whiton said 27 people showed up throughout the first day of the show and she hopes that grows as the weeks pass.

“We’re not having a big party, but it’s pleasant and sweet,” she said. “Each artist, artisan, crafter is documenting community in their own way.”

Whiton and the other organizers want the show to allow people to not only help the LAVA Center get back to where it had hoped to be in the spring, but to bring people together, if just for a few minutes, to not only experience some “great local art,” but connect again.

“The cost of this pandemic has been community connection,” she said. “I hope this not only satisfies some of that, but also inspires people.”

She said what she finds as the silver lining is that people aren’t coming to the show to eat and catch up with others, as is what happens during art show openings, but are really focusing on the art.

“This is a gentle, COVID-safe way of doing what we’ve always done,” Whiton said.

There will also be weekly gallery hours on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 6 p.m., according to Whiton.

For more information about the LAVA Center at 324 Main St., call 413-512-3063 or visit: localaccess.org. The LAVA Center arts incubator can also be found on Facebook.

Anita Fritz can be reached at afritz@recorder.com.




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