ArtsQuest and the Banana Factory, ArtsQuest’s visual arts branch, modified their programming to be primarily virtual amid the pandemic.
The arts organization closed all of its properties on March 16, abruptly shifting from planning for over 4,000 concerts, classes and programs for the year to not offering a single one in-person.
Mark Demko, ArtsQuest director of communications, said staff quickly shifted from planning for a busy summer season ahead to developing virtual programming that would allow the community to continue to be connected through the arts.
As the summer progressed and regulations eased and evolved, ArtsQuest began to integrate small in-person elements. While the fall brought in more of a hybrid model, the bulk of programming is still offered virtually.
ArtsQuest developed “ArtsQuest at home” — an online portal that integrates their original programming in visual arts and streamings of concerts and movie screenings.
The organization is also holding virtual artist talks as well as virtual walk-through exhibitions to emulate the feeling of physically walking through the galleries.
“Music and arts have this incredible way of bringing people together in transcending tough times,” Demko said. “Certainly everybody has been through that over the past six months. Especially as the pandemic started, we needed to find ways to provide music and arts experiences virtually.”
Lisa Harms, ArtsQuest director of visual arts and education, sees arts and music as a way to make people feel more grounded and connected with one another, bringing in healing qualities and comfort.
She noticed many of the pieces being created focus on finding beauty and light in all the chaos.
“We have certainly seen, with everything happening in the world, there have been a lot of murals and large-scale projects coming out right now that really reflect what’s happening in the world in a way that feels accessible to people, and that’s so important right now,” she said.
Many artists are also resorting to creating pieces about what they’ve known and what is comfortable to them amidst the challenging times.
Harms said ArtsQuest constantly offers their support to their artists during these times, though they seem to be working as hard as ever.
“For artists, it has certainly become a very creative time,” Harms said. “For the artists that we work with, many of them have been prolific during this pandemic.”
Katie Hovencamp, a resident artist and teacher, is working primarily from home this year as opposed to working at her studio in the Banana Factory.
Before the pandemic, much of her work was more confrontational, with focus on current events and politics. Since the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of her pieces have been influenced by isolation and her confinement at home.
“I made a lot of pieces that were referencing domestic objects that you would find in your house or things that were associated with the home,” she said. “I would use things like kitchen utensils and wallpaper.”
Her work now includes darker elements and subtle undertones. Some of them are associated with the imagery of what she has been seeing on the news. One drawing she made, for example, was on a woman vacuuming while hooked up to a respirator.
As for her students, she has seen a variety of topics in the art they have created, but is excited to see they have been working significantly harder than in the past.