"Art is to console those who are broken by life.” ― Vincent van Gogh
While "broken by life" feels a little melodramatic, I do agree with the sentiment, and acknowledge that life certainly does feel more broken these days. So, as soon as I felt that it was safe and responsible to do so, I masked up and started seeing art again. It has helped me, for sure. The sense of normalcy combined with the evergreen joy of seeing new or new-to-me work, has been really nice.
These days, many people are wondering if it is safe to visit museums or safe to travel right now. It truly is a personal decision, between you and your family, healthcare provider and other people whose health you may effect. For me, as a child-free person working from home, no underlying health issues and no eldercare responsibilities, it feels very safe to visit museums and other creative spaces.
Once you have arrived at the decision that it's time to resume your own art adventures, you may be looking for ideas on how to do so safely, but without losing the experience.
Here is what has worked for me:
Art is my "thing." I don't go to sit-down restaurants, no in-person parties or gatherings of any size, and I don't have kids in school. Not really a mani/pedi person. So, if I get to pick one "sort of" essential thing to add to the essential grocery runs, exercise and routine health/hygiene needs, art is it. For me, it is helpful to know that I can focus on making that one "essential-ish" routine as safe as possible and add some fun to the basics. I also try to space out my art adventures by a couple of weeks. So, the days of "Gallery Fridays" are behind me for now, and I don't visit more than one or two indoor spaces in a day. If it's been a busy week of essential errands, I put off the fun stuff by a week or so just to be safe. It involves a bit more planning, but feels right to me.
Focus on off-times or outdoor activities. I'm a big fan of outdoor sculpture gardens and murals these days. Nearly every town has at least one or two interesting pieces of art to see outdoors, and probably more if you know where to look. (And, if you don't know where to look, we'll happily help with that!) When it's too hot or there's something specific to see, I try to visit galleries, museums and other spaces on off-hours. This is easier for those of us with more flexible schedules, I know. But even getting there first thing in the morning, or going during a lunch hour on a weekday can help maintain space.
Mask up! I'll be the Masked Art Adventurer for the foreseeable future, and that's okay. I don't like masks any more than anyone else does, but if wearing one helps me see art, keep myself and others safe, and show that I respect the art professionals and other visitors, I'm committed to wearing them. Many spaces are selling art themed masks, so you could have a special mask to match the type of art you are going to see!
Be a good guest. Museum and gallery spaces have their own policies to keep you and their employees safe. If they ask you to sanitize your hands, do so. Stand in the little squares six feet apart. It's fine. After a while, you won't even notice it, because you'll be too busy focusing on the great art that you're happy to be out of the house looking at.
Be prepared to evolve. As the number of cases rise and fall - then rise again, inevitably - be prepared to roll with it. We always recommend day trips to small towns. Mask up and sanitize, and if you are visiting a more vulnerable population with fewer medical resources, consider postponing the visit if your local numbers are high. Road trips are easier to plan, change or cancel last-minute and to me, feel safer than flying right now. I have found that galleries and museums have been pretty explicit about how, when and if they are comfortable welcoming guests. If things lock down again, some of the virtual options out there are pretty great. And, don't discount galleries and maker spaces when you are looking for virtual options. Most have adapted quite well to online instruction, programming and virtual tours!
If you are a small town, organization or other professional who would like to discuss strategies on thoughtful cultural engagement during the pandemic, please get in touch. The balance of safety, culture and creativity is an important consideration in planning fall festivals, Shop Small/Shop Local programs, holiday tourism, employee recognition/end-of-year team building or other upcoming experiences that will need to look different this year.
More about art mentioned in this post:
Valley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden is an art space in Dallas. Its gallery shows contemporary paintings, sculpture and mixed-media work by contemporary artists, and its gardens are often open to the public for a stroll.
Mark Bradford : End Papers is an exhibition on view at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth through January 2020. This phenomenal exhibition was extended due to the pandemic, giving even more people the opportunity to see it. Bradford uses found objects, and in this exhibition, hair salon end papers and colors from hair dyes, to create large, vibrant and textural collages.