Creative folks make most of isolation

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Salt Spring’s thriving arts community is just one of the sectors that is taking a big hit from the novel coronavirus pandemic and the orders to stay home and practise physical distancing.

The month of April, which would typically see events ramping up for the island’s busier seasons, will see traditional markers like the Salt Spring Arts Council’s Easter Art Show put on ice for 2020. Globe and Mail writer Kate Taylor observes that even while the events that support creative types have been cancelled — from book launches to film sets to visual art shows —people are turning to the arts more than ever to get them through the weeks stuck at home.

“The large losses and ironic gains of the pandemic are offering sharp lessons about why we need the arts,” Taylor argues in a piece published Friday.

Fortunately, the creative type of islander has not stopped being creative with lack of venue, and many people continue to share their work in ways that allow their own self-expression while making things lighter or deepening connection and understanding among the rest of us.

Having lost their weekly meeting/work sessions at ArtSpring, some members of the Salt Spring Painters Guild are sharing their work, ideas or what they are currently working on with each other via email. Member Bernadette Mertens-McAllister said this gives participants a sense of belonging, being heard and supported, and the comments are always useful.

Sharing the work with more of the world through platforms like the Driftwood is also beneficial to artists, as Mertens-McAllister has done this week with her piece COVID-19 With Gratitude. The painting was inspired by the photos on the news. An army of heroes is marching to protect people, while the virus hovers in the background.

“Last week, as I was going to my studio, I put my mind aside and started painting with the intention to just playing with my favourite colour, turquoise. It didn’t take long before these figures appeared on my canvas,” Mertens-McAllister said.

“It is true that the news about COVID-19 was heavy that day and seemed to have impregnated my whole being; I was facing and processing my anxiety. Soon, however, emerged my gratitude for all the nurses and medical staff and all the support during these difficult times.”

More pieces by the Painters Guild will be published in the Driftwood in coming weeks.

Gallery 8 had a solo show by David Goatley planned to open on March 27 that was to run to April 12. Taking current events in stride, the gallery has transferred to a virtual exhibition format, which can be viewed at https://davidgoatley.com/david-goatley-city-life-show.html.

The Salt Spring Arts Council has also not been idle. It has created a SSI Cultural Connections page on Facebook, described as “a place for Island Creatives to share their talents and for locals to seek connection and comfort during this unprecedented time.”

As well, the arts council facilitated the use of Mahon Hall as a space to cut material to make hospital gowns over the weekend. Garment makers Caroline Trepanier and Donna Johnstone worked (at a safe distance) with Dr. Manya Sadouski and Dr. Peter Verheul.

Many performers are likewise taking to the internet to foster community while keeping up with physical distancing. Salt Spring’s David Carl offered a Road Case Cafe “Saturday Night Alive at Nine” performance last weekend, which was available live on Facebook and can be viewed as a recording on YouTube. Lisa Sigurgeirson Maxx is having live sing-along sessions via her Facebook page, while Valdy has offered “Live at Five” [p.m.] watch parties as well through Facebook. Viewers get an intimate concert with the renowned folksinger and islander, including brand new songs such as Six Feet Apart, where he laments having to stay the required physical distance away from his wife Kathleen Horsdal, and one dedicated to B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“Going viral seems the antithesis of today’s pursuits,” Valdy comments on his Facebook page. “Presenting some relevant entertainment, for any folks taking note, is why we folkies are on the planet.”

Diana Thompson is one islander who expressed her appreciation for the March 29 concert.

“Thank-you, Valdy and Kathleen, for bringing me into your home,” she wrote. “I felt I was just there with you and not alone (only so many miles away) and hearing your voice and your songs that I’ve loved for 50 years made the world seem whole again.”

Friends of author Chris Humphreys have meanwhile been treated to a reading of one of his short stories, which he recorded from a vintage outhouse and posted to Facebook.

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