Videoconferencing has become so common during the pandemic that “Zoom” is being used as a verb. We zoom friends and colleagues, and they peer inside our bedrooms, basements and condos, perusing our bookshelves and decor.
Many of us worry about what’s there, what it says about us, and want a change.
“People are finally looking at what’s behind them as they stare at their screen,” said Andrea Rinaldo, co-owner of the Butter Art Gallery in Collingwood, Ont. “And they don’t like what they see.”
That has prompted something of a renaissance for the gallery, and the local artists it represents, in what has become the best year for sales in its existence.
“What we’ve introduced is the idea of Zoom Art,” Rinaldo said.
“Something that might also offer the people that they’re on the call with [some] eye candy,” added her business partner Suzanne Steeves. “Something to look at besides the books.”
Sales have skyrocketed at the gallery as customers have sought to spice up their backgrounds. From smaller pieces for $45, to larger works of fine art selling for well into five digits, the gallery aims to be accessible to all buyers — even those who just want to browse options on social media.
Exponential growth in videoconferencing
The use of videoconferencing ballooned during the early months of the pandemic, with Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Go To Meeting and a series of other services showing enormous growth in both the number of users and amount of use.
Zoom ended 2019 with 10 million daily meeting participants, for example. When the pandemic was declared in March, that rose to 200 million. By April, daily users surged to 300 million, and have kept growing.
Simultaneously, people began to focus on the backgrounds of their calls. Social media feeds posted some of the best (and the worst), and people passed judgment on RoomRater on Twitter and other forums.
“Instead of the power suit, it’s now the power art,” said Steeves at the gallery.
Working from home has fundamentally altered the gallery experience for some. People used to come to look at the art — now they come to stand with their backs to it.
For those who come into the gallery, “if they don’t see something on the wall here to stand in front of, we just lift one up … and they stand in front of that piece,” Rinaldo said. “So they can make that comparison and see which piece behind them makes them look the best.”
And during lockdowns, they’re offered Zoom or Facetime tours of the options available.
There are also some additional considerations when choosing art for a wall featured in Zoom calls, said Rinaldo.
“Is it too distracting for the people who are viewing you? Are they going to be paying attention to what you’re saying or are they going to be focusing on the art?”
As director of sales and group services for the nearby Blue Mountain Resort, Helen Stukator wanted something bold to help boost online pitches and client interactions.
“I’m very used to being face-to-face with my clients, entertaining them, wining and dining and having those opportunities to really build a relationship. And if it’s just a boring wall or a white wall behind me, it doesn’t have the same effect.”
Stukator went with a painting from Ontario artist Grace Afonso, and said she is delighted by the response.
“People really like it. You can’t not see it,” she said. “It’s a conversation starter and it’s personal.”
Artists are also surprised by the extra attention.
“It’s fun and exciting for me,” said the Hamilton-based Afonso, stunned by the sudden exposure of her art to far more people. “It’s bringing a little cheer to everybody else and it’s bringing cheer to me to paint it.
“Hopefully they’re getting a little peace and happiness by looking at it, because Zoom calls can be quite stressful,” she said.
The artist knows a lot about stress herself, working as a full-time charge nurse at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. She works on crisis and psychosis cases in the hospital’s eating disorder unit, which has seen a substantial increase in patients during the pandemic.
So back in her art studio on days off, it’s an “opportunity to recenter yourself … go back to that place where you’re peaceful and joyful and calm.”
The artist is also excited that her art is being seen by more than just visitors to someone’s home. They’re now being shown to a much wider audience through the video calls of those who have purchased her works.
It’s not what she expected from the pandemic.
“I thought with COVID, everything for art would kind of die down and it would just be quiet time for us artists in the studio just to paint,” she said, “I didn’t expect everybody to be so interested in what we’re doing right now.”
Afonso has painted about 75 works over the pandemic year — similar to an ordinary year — but this year all have sold quickly. The greatest difference is size. In COVID times, there has been demand for larger pieces, which equates for the artist to a higher selling price. She said her income from painting has at least tripled since last March.
Meanwhile, a banner year was not what the founding partner of Butter Art Gallery expected when the pandemic first hit.
“We were very worried,” Steeves said. “We were having discussions about how long do we stay closed and not make money. But surprisingly, we did make money.”
The gallery’s contemporary art collection has also caught the attention of a growing internet-based community, who peruse the ever-changing collection online.
“We had a conversation with a couple,” Rinaldo said. “They [told us they] got their glasses of wine, put up their big screen together, and flipped through our repertoire of art. And that’s what they did for the whole evening.”
The couple called up the next day and arranged to pick up two pieces curbside.
The success has trickled to artists across Ontario and Quebec, with surging demand creating a constantly revolving selection of available pieces at the gallery.
“I just think it’s really important to support local arts,” Stukator said, with her new painting prominently hung on the wall opposite her laptop. “It keeps the community going. It shows appreciation and it makes our community beautiful.”
WATCH | The National’s feature on video calls driving sales of art:
Watch full episodes of The National on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.
Imaginations, creativity of Mountview students on display at Cariboo Art Beat
Creative, imaginative artwork of students from Mountview Elementary School will be on public display at the gallery of Cariboo Art Beat until April 9.
“The students of Mountview elementary were all invited to participate in an art contest,” Tiffany Jorgensen said, an artist at Cariboo Art Beat.
Each class was separately judged by three professional artists at Cariboo Art Beat, Jorgensen said, based on the students’ creativity, techniques, use of space and originality.
“It was extremely difficult to select pieces from the abundance of beautiful art presented,” she said. “There is so much talent and fantastic imaginations.”
The artist of each selected piece was given formal invitations to their art show to distribute to whomever they choose, and Jorgensen said anyone is free to view the beautiful artwork throughout until April 9.
Honoured at the show were works from local artists Ryker Hagen, Annika Nilsson, Rylie Trampleasure, Angus Shoults, Izabella Telford, Isabella Buchner, Kai Pare and more.
“Come view their wonderful pieces to get a glimpse into the minds of our creative youth,” Jorgensen said.
“It’s been so fun. The kids have come in and seen their work on display with their grandparents, parents, and they’re all so excited.”
Following up on the success of the Mountview art show, Jorgensen said more elementary schools have been invited to participate.
April will feature the works of Nesika and Big Lake, followed by Marie Sharpe and Chilcotin Road next month.
Cariboo Art Beat is located at 19 First Ave., under Caribou Ski Source for Sports’ entrance on Oliver Street.
Source:– Williams Lake Tribune – Williams Lake Tribune
Launching the conversation on Newfoundland and Labrador art history
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. —
“Future Possible: An Art History of Newfoundland and Labrador” is a book that has been a long time coming, Mireille Eagan says.
While working at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Prince Edward Island, Eagan curated an exhibition marking the 60th anniversary of Newfoundland and Labrador joining Confederation with Canada.
“As I was researching, I noticed that there was very little that existed in terms of the art history of this province,” she said. “There wasn’t even a Wikipedia article.”
Noticing this large gap, “Future Possible” was a book that needed to exist, she said.
As the 70th anniversary approached in 2019, Eagan, now living in St. John’s and working as curator of contemporary art at The Rooms, envisioned filling that gap.
Over two summers, The Rooms held a two-part exhibition. The first looked at the visual culture and visual narratives before the province joined Confederation and the second focused on 1949 onward, Eagan said.
“At its core, it was asking, what are the stories we tell ourselves as a province? It was looking at iconic artworks, it was looking at texts that have been written about this place, and it put these works in conversation with contemporary artworks,” Eagan said.
In the foreword to the book, chief executive officer of The Rooms Anne Chafe described it as a complement to the exhibition and a project that “does not seek to be the final say. It seeks, instead, to launch the conversation.”
History and identity
One example of that conversation between the past and the present mentioned by Eagan is the work of artist Bushra Junaid, who moved to St. John’s from Montreal as a baby. The daughter of a Jamaican mother and Nigerian father, Junaid said her experience growing up in the province in the 1970s, where she always the only Black child in the room, was not like most.
“All of my formative years, my schooling and everything, took place in St. John’s,” she said. “It’s very much shaped my current preoccupation.”
Her interest in history, identity and representation led her to making “Two Pretty Girls…,” which used an archival photograph of Caribbean sugarcane workers from 1903 with text from advertisements for sugar, molasses and rum from archived copies of The Evening Telegram collaged over the women’s clothing.
In her essay “Of Saltfish and Molasses” published in “Future Possible,” she described the work as “(allowing) me to place these women and their labour within the broader historical context of the international trade in commodities that underpinned Caribbean slavery and its afterlife.”
It’s a direct connection between Newfoundland and people in the Caribbean, a historical line not often drawn through the context of the transatlantic slave trade, but one she knows personally through the stories told by her mother, Adassa, about their ancestor, Sisa, who “as a teenager, survived the horrors of the Middle Passage, enduring the voyage from West Africa to Jamaica in the hold of a slave ship (Junaid).”
A book like “Future Possible” allows people to interpret themselves and their past, present and future, Junaid says.
“I appreciate the ways in which they really worked to make it as broad and diverse as possible,” she said. “It’s also striving to tell the Indigenous history of the place, the European settler history … and then also looking for … non-Western backgrounds such as myself. It’s enriching.”
What shapes us
St. John’s writer Lisa Moore contributed an essay called “Five Specimens from Another Time” that weaves together moments from her own life, the province’s history and current realities and the art that has inspired her over the years.
“It’s really interesting to me to see all this work of people that I’ve written about in the past and whose work influenced me, even in my writing of fiction, and then newer artists,” Moore said. “I just think that the book is a total gift.”
With such a rich cultural history ready to be written, she imagines “Future Possible” is just the first of what could be many books about art in the province now that the “ice is cracked.”
“The writers that (Eagan) has chosen to write here are also really exciting critics from all over the province, talking about all kind of different periods in art history,” she said.
As time passes, the meaning of the works in the book becomes richer, she said.
Mary Pratt’s 1974 “Cod Fillets on Tin Foil” and Scott Goudie’s 1991 “Muskrat Falls,” for instance, are two images with seemingly straightforward and simple subject matter. But any viewer looking now, who is aware of the cod moratorium and the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam, would find it difficult to see and interpret these images outside of those contexts.
“Artists, writers, filmmakers … they’re keen observers of culture and the moment that we live in,” Moore said. “They present things that are intangible like the feeling of a moment, or the culmination of social, political and esthetic powers that come together at a given time and shape us.”
“Future Possible: An Art History of Newfoundland and Labrador” is available online and in stores.
Parrott Art Gallery goes virtual to help flatten the curve – The Kingston Whig-Standard
Feeling stir crazy because of COVID and the latest lock-down? Take a virtual trip to Morocco!
On Wednesday, April 14 at 2:30 p.m., the Parrott Gallery will host Lola Reid Allin’s Armchair Traveler online presentation: “Morocco: Sea, Sand and Summit”. Allin is an accomplished photographer, pilot, writer and speaker. Travel with her through the land of dramatic contrast and hidden jewels, busy markets and medieval cities, and enjoy some virtual sun.
For more information and to register for this free online event, please visit bellevillelibrary.ca/armchair-traveller.php. The Armchair Traveller Morocco photography exhibit is also available to view through the Parrott Gallery website until mid-May.
Even though our gallery is currently closed to the public, our exhibitions are all available to view online. Sam Sakr’s show “The Housing Project” is certain to bring a smile to your face. His collection of mixed media artwork will take you to a playful land of fantastical creatures that inhabit imaginary, stylized cityscapes. If your spirit needs uplifting, you need to see to see this show. I hope that everyone will be able to view Sakr’s work both online and then in our gallery after the lock-down ends in May. Without a doubt, it will be worth the wait to see it again in-person when we re-open.
Another exhibition that you can currently visit on the Parrott Gallery website is the group show “Spring Sentiments: a Reflection of Art in Isolation”. This was a collaborative effort by the 39 artists who submitted their work, our staff who put the show together in the gallery and online, and our guest curator Jessica Turner. We are thrilled that Jessica was able to transcribe her experience with this show into a final paper for her Curatorial Studies BFA degree at OCADU.
The fact that we have had to close our doors just as this show was opening is a sad reflection of the theme as the audience must now reflect on this artwork at home, in isolation. The up-side to viewing this exhibition online is that one can read the artist statements that accompany the work and get a more in depth view of the artists’ perspectives. We encourage viewers to support our artists by sending in their comments and to vote for their favourites in the show by following the appropriate link on the webpage.
When you can’t come in to our building, the Parrott Gallery will bring the artwork to you. And then when the sun and flowers come out in May, and when it is safe to return to our gallery on the third floor of the Belleville Public Library, we hope to see you all again.
For questions about our online talk, our shows, or to purchase any of the artwork please call us at 613-968-6731 x 2040 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wendy Rayson-Kerr is the Acting Curator at the John M. Parrott Art Gallery.