About a month ago Rowan County citizens were welcoming the new year, anxious to put 2020 in the rearview mirror. Many of us secretly hoped that all the problems of 2020 would somehow disseminate and that the new year would usher in lively concerts, bustling weddings, cookouts, and gatherings with friends. We tried so hard to believe it. Almost as if, if we just wished hard enough, put our hopes out into the Universe, somehow, we could will it to happen. Some of us are still clinging to the idea, even as we sail through February.
Things are Looking Up
Looking around at our community, some folks really seem to be getting into the swing of our pandemic lifestyle. Restaurants are open with new precautions in place. Children are lined up in their masks to enjoy a train ride at the N.C. Transportation Museum, or to grab a cone of ice cream from Spanky’s Homemade Ice Cream and Deli. People are out and about in town, visiting our stores and our breweries. Employees are back at work, spacing out and wearing masks. Musicians are even out playing music! Before the curfew that is. And while some of our friends and neighbors are really suffering, many in our community have tightened their laces and opened their minds to new and exciting ways of thinking and doing.
Without a doubt, one of the communities that has struggled immensely to survive this pandemic is the local Arts community. Gallery openings, theatre productions, concerts and even films have become a thing of the past. Actors are auditioning via video submission. Productions are being shown on Facebook Live or Zoom. Concerts have been reduced to small, outdoor gatherings where patrons can socially distance themselves and bands rely on tips. Visual Artists are using this time in a wide variety of ways. Some are making massive bodies of work to share as soon as the world opens back up. Others are re-grouping, organizing their workspaces, and handling all those tasks that just aren’t as fun as creating. Our art teachers are becoming experts at utilizing platforms like Canvas and Blackboard. They are revamping their projects and trying desperately to keep their students motivated and engaged.
Fortunately, finding ways to engage in the Arts is becoming a little bit easier by the day. Adults can try their hand at painting a custom barn quilt over at Mary Mae’s- A Southern Mercantile in Spencer or at one of The Purple Daisy’s Brushes and Brew events at New Sarum Brewing. The renowned Lee St Theatre is offering a variety of theatrical productions via their brand-new Livestream Events app which can be downloaded to your Roku or Amazon Fire Stick device. And most notably, the nationally acclaimed Waterworks Visual Arts Center is enticing art lovers with a huge variety of accessible arts programming. In lieu of the traditional Artist Talk, virtual interviews of current exhibiting artists are available on YouTube and accessible through the website at waterworks.org. Viewers can learn more about the works on display and the artists who made them. In addition to this more intimate experience, art lovers can also check out unique project opportunities via the exciting new VIRTUAL ARTstop program. This program, which is geared towards makers from 5th grade and beyond, offers the viewer an opportunity to take part in some really engaging art projects through the use of instructional videos. From printmaking on Gelli plates, to wire sculptures and paper relief, these VIRTUAL Art Stops are both fun and challenging. As we move towards spring we can look forward to a new and very exciting round of the annual Salisbury Sculpture Show. And our friends down in Kannapolis have just unveiled new sculptural additions to their downtown area for public enjoyment.
But wait, there’s more!
And as our larger Arts organizations work to pave the way forward, local, individual artists are making strides of their own. Street artist Abstract Dissent has been developing an online shop where he can sell prints of his murals, specifically those located in more obscure locations. Artists are rebranding, building new websites, utilizing social media and making online sales. While it has been incredibly devastating to watch our venues sit empty, and while we all long for days ahead when we can linger in front of a beautiful painting with a glass of wine and a friend, change always has a little silver lining. If you stay open to it, sit with it a while, it will show you a way forward. And in Rowan’s vibrant Arts community, that has never been more apparent.