"Collaboration" Builds Community Despite Pandemic

Arts & Culture

Pictured: Kathy Wright (left) and Laine Nixon discuss their collaboration and their art.

In a time of social distancing and political division, when so many people feel isolated and alone, the artists of SARTQ and Marianne Chapel of SPAACES have decided to showcase the power of cooperation and partnership through a new exhibition titled simply Collaboration. The exhibition sees individual SARTQ artists partnering with non-member artists, with both sides of the exchange creating new work inspired by this partnership. Opening this evening at SPAACES, the largely outdoor reception begins at 7pm and runs through 9pm. Masks are mandatory inside the gallery and multiple pandemic precautions have been put in place, including a rather novel approach involving a mime and a wooden stick.

The idea for Collaboration actually came in the halcyon days pre-pandemic, when the notion of sharing studio space with a friend or dropping by for a visit seemed like an entirely reasonable thing to do and less akin to some sort of biological warfare. Initially, the plan called for SARTQ members to collaborate with other members, but the collective ultimately decided that the spirit of the exhibition demanded more community focus and a greater sense of inclusiveness, says SARTQ’s Laine Nixon. “We are membership-based,” she says, “but we also love our community and want it to be broad and inclusive.” To that end, SARTQ artists partnered with a variety of community members, from artists to local plant experts.
The arrival of the pandemic put an end to some of these plans, especially those that relied extensively on public interaction, but 16-18 artists soldiered on, meeting virtually with their chosen partners and creating the work on display this evening. Nixon partnered with local artist Kathy Wright, an old friend and fellow visual artist with a penchant for abstract work, and the pair collaborated via Zoom, sharing ideas and workshopping in stages and reveling in their shared creativity. “I almost feel like I gained a studio partner,” Nixon says.

And even though neither one could physically touch the other’s work, Nixon still considers the results a true collaboration. “The collaboration is almost one piece in and of itself,” she says. “It just manifested in a couple different iterations.”
For Chapel, the choice to host Collaboration was an easy one. “This is exactly what The SPAACES Foundation is all about,” she says. “It builds better community when we collaborate.” And she suspects the community might need that now more than ever. “We need each other to pull each other up,” Chapel says. “This is a crazy, strange time in the world and it’s important that we come together.”

Not literally, of course, and Chapel has instituted several pandemic precautions to be observed throughout the show. Masks are mandatory in the gallery and only three people will be allowed in at any given time. Once inside, viewers must obey social distancing and follow the directional markers, which will lead them through the entire gallery and out a separate door, so those leaving and those entering do not collide. Refreshments and socializing will take place outdoors.

Enforcing it all? The aforementioned mime with a wooden stick. Local actor Michael Cruz, a Booker High School student and member of SaraSolo, will be presenting COVID Performance Art: An Interactive Artwork on Being Safe During the New Normal, seeing the masked actor mingle with attendees, miming actions such as hand-washing and “encouraging” social distancing with a six-foot-long wooden dowel. The mask starts with a smile but Chapel warns it can easily turn into a frown.

Collaboration opens tonight at 7pm at SPAACES. For those choosing to attend virtually, a live video will be streamed on the SPAACES Facebook page from 7:30pm to 7:50pm, showcasing the event and the art. Another video featuring the art and interviews with the artist will be available on the SPAACES website roughly a week later.

Pictured: Kathy Wright (left) and Laine Nixon discuss their collaboration and their art.

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