ArtSpark

2020 in review: At last, over & out

2020? Perish the thought. The ups, downs, disasters, trends, outrages, and occasional triumphs of Oregon's arts & culture in a tortuous year.

2020? Perish the thought. Good riddance to bad rubbish: We’re gonna wash that year right out of our hair. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Or, as the old curse has it, “may you live in interesting times” – but not quite this interesting, thank you very much.

The Year That Should Not Speak Its Name led pretty much everyone, including all of us here at Oregon ArtsWatch, on a frantic and astonishing chase. It was discombobulating, because for the most part we were chasing in isolation inside the confines of our own homes, like cats in a cardboard box desperately racing after our own tails. Oh, sure, there were those fair-weather walks through the neighborhood, and the masked-up trips to the grocery store. But, really: Things might’ve been new, but they were far from normal.


LOOKING BACK: 2020 IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR


Normality, of course, is how the year began. Even optimism. On Jan. 1, 2020, a year ago today, ArtsWatch strode brashly into the Brave New Year with the first dispatch in Vision 2020, an ambitious series of 20 interviews over 20 days with a cross-section of Oregon arts figures who agreed to talk with us about how things looked from their corners of the cultural world, and what they hoped to see in the coming year and decade. They had some terrific insights and ideas, and the series makes for some fascinating reading: From Rachel Barreras-Kleeman’s tale of why she teaches dance to low-income kids on the Coast, to Dañel Malan’s vision of creating bilingual arts through Teatro Milagro, to 18 compelling stories in between, you can find all 20 interviews here. But nobody – least of all those of us at ArtsWatch Central, in our eager editorial innocence – anticipated what was lurking just around the corner.

In January Maya Vivas and Leila Haile talked with Martha Daghlian for ArtsWatch’s “Vision 2020” series about the joys and challenges of running an adventurous art gallery on North Mississippi Avenue featuring work from a wide range of artists who identify as QTPoC (Queer Trans People of Color). Because of the Covid-19 crisis, their Ori Gallery has since shifted to an online presence. Photo courtesy Ori Gallery

And how could any of us have? Yes, news reports buried on the inside pages of the newspapers alerted us to some new virus very far away, but it didn’t seem like much to get alarmed about. Then things began to build, until, come March, the virus was all very real, and all over the place, and in spite of a determined right-wing campaign to persuade people that it was all fake news and the disease was a hoax, the world began to shut down.

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A little ArtSpark in Eugene

As schools stay shut down, arts teachers in Lane County shift their studio classes online and take the art to kids across 16 districts

As Covid-19 shuttered schools across Oregon, limiting access to in-person learning of core curriculum and electives alike, arts organizations like Lane Arts Council pivoted on a dime, reinventing program delivery models to meet the changing needs of students in Lane County.  

ArtSpark Online has been created so that every student across Lane County can have free, flexible access through open-access video tutorials teaching a variety of art forms,” says the county arts council’s arts education program manager, Eric Braman. “We have reached out to every school district in hopes of encouraging teachers, parents, and students to stay creative with the tools around them – whether that is turning dandelions into dye or an old sock into a new puppet! Each video provides clear instructions, guiding students to engage directly with the ‘making’ of art, exploring both visual and performance art.”


THE ART OF LEARNING: An Occasional Series


Lessons vary in length, depending on the art-making process, Braman explains.

“Our goal was to create 15-20 minute videos that guide students through approximately 45 minutes of viewing/art making,” Braman says. “We wanted to avoid “lecture-style” arts instruction, and instead always have the video directing students toward the ‘making’.”

The videos provide clear direction for students to follow and regularly instructs them to pause the video and go do.

“In the observational drawing videos, this translated to the artist showing the students how to begin a sketch, then instructing them to pause the video and take some time sketching on their own. In puppetry, the lessons were much shorter, but the unlimited potential between the crafting of the puppet and the performing of the puppet are unlimited! Our hope is that each video will encourage approximately 45 minutes of active engagement with an art form,” Braman says.

Alex Ever, demonstrating on Vimeo how to make natural dyes. Photo courtesy Lane Arts Council

Lane Arts’ teaching artists are learning new ways of doing things, too. Before quarantine measures, artist Alex Ever primarily taught students about natural dyes.

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