This is the fourth article in a series on reopening arts and cultural organizations across Tennessee. As Tennessee continues to open up in this ever-changing environment, new opportunities and challenges appear as we come back together in person. In addition, arts and cultural organizations are essential to the recovery of Tennessee’s economy. In recognition of the very challenging circumstances facing arts and cultural organizations, these articles aim to bring us together as a community by sharing how different organizations find opportunities and solutions to moving the arts forward in our state.
By Krishna Adams, Director of Visual Arts, Craft, Media and Design –
As the State continues to open up in this ever-changing environment, new opportunities and challenges appear as we come back together in person. Arts and cultural organizations are an essential outlet to the recovery of Tennessee’s economy. In recognition of the especially challenging circumstances facing arts and cultural organizations, these articles aim to bring us together as a community by sharing how varied organizations find solutions to moving the arts forward in our State.
With the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year, and the resulting decrease in infection rates, arts organizations across Tennessee have begun to increase their hours of operation and programming to meet the demand of members and visitors. Pleased with this move to less restrictions, organizations have taken what they have learned about virtual programming and are incorporating it into a revised way of operating their organizations.
Paint Memphis brings together community partners, businesses, schools, youth organizations, performers, artists, and art supporters to paint the largest collaborative mural in Tennessee each year. Situated in neighborhoods that have not had exposure to traditional arts, Paint Memphis literally brings art to the streets, making it accessible to everyone for free.
Director Karen Golightly reports for 2020 that they held Paint Memphis but altered it to keep artists and participants safe. “We held it over the course of six weeks and spread it out geographically over the course of one mile down North Front and Second Streets in Memphis. Then we did a one-day walk through with docents and maps (for the first time!). While this was effective in keeping all participants distanced and safe, it was quite taxing on our board and volunteers to convert from a one-week/one-day event to six weeks. It did allow, though, for lots of one-on-one time with board members and very small group collaborations.”
“For 2021, Paint Memphis will return to two weeks of prep and one-day event on October 9. We will encourage all artists and volunteers to get vaccinated and ask everyone to self-disclose. We will require masks (or respirators) if that is still mandatory from Shelby County or the CDC, and we will be located at one main building with two off-shoot buildings nearby. There will be live music and a festival as in the past. LOTS of hand sanitizer and free masks will be available for everyone who attends. We are excited to be located in downtown Memphis this year, near Beale Street, which will increase the visibility and participants of the project through pedestrian, bicycle, bus, and vehicle traffic.” To learn more about Paint Memphis check out their website at paintmemphis.org.
Middle–Borderless Arts, Tennessee
Borderless Arts Tennessee, formerly VSA Tennessee is part of an important history of equality and opportunity in the arts. In partnership with and in support of artists, parents/guardians, and educators, they work to ensure there are resources, tools, and opportunities for arts programming in schools and communities statewide. From music and theater to visual arts and dance, they strive to open the wide-ranging world of the arts to Tennessee. Their mission is to work with individuals with disabilities. All individuals creating art with professional artists are individuals with disabilities.
Lori Kissinger, Executive Director, and founding director for 20 years explains, “Borderless Arts Tennessee has decided to move forward by taking advantage of some opportunities. The first opportunity is that it is summer, meaning we can host workshops in park shelter houses and plan outdoor events. In late May, we coordinated a dance activity at the Nashville Zoo and on June 5, we hosted a drive thru art exhibit in a park. Those who wished to remain in their cars and just pass by the art could do so and those who felt comfortable in the outdoors could make that choice. Of course, heat and rain can be issues with outdoor events, so we are securing shelter houses and doing most events in the morning or evening.”
“The second opportunity we are taking advantage of is to partner with new organizations. We are going to horse stables with our artists and participants so that our artists can draw the horses. We are meeting with the Coast Guard to learn the history, art, and significance of signal flags and then making our own flags outdoors. We are going to a historic home and learning how paint was made in earlier times and how stenciling was done, to name a few activities. This opportunity expands the realm of the arts to our participants and brings awareness of the arts to organizations outside of the arts world. We are doing all of this with legal forms and close monitoring of conditions.
However, we still are doing some Zoom sessions as we have found those allow us to utilize the talents of artists from all over the State and to incorporate participants for whom travel is an issue. We are not letting go of the digital workshops but are slowly adding in the in-person workshops in the outdoor settings.
Our plan is to continue this method into the fall and then switch to mostly digital activities in the winter. Besides COVID, winter tends to usher in more colds and flus, and winter travel conditions are always a concern. So, we will just eliminate those issues and utilize primarily digital delivery until next spring.”
“We are moving into our 20th anniversary year and believe the mix of in-person and digital offerings will make for some of the most exciting programming we have done to date!” Find out more about Borderless Arts Tennessee at borderlessartstn.org.
East–Hunter Museum of American Art
The Hunter Museum of American Art overlooking the Tennessee River in Chattanooga collects, preserves, and presents American art and connects the community through inspiring educational and visitor-focused experiences for all.
Aly Brock Haugland, Development Manager explains that “COVID affected practically every aspect of the Hunter Museum of American Art, including a four-month closure in spring and summer 2020. Museum staff quickly adapted to new ways of connecting art with audiences, including virtual artist talks and studio tours, Facebook Live art tutorials, and a new section on the Hunter’s website where art activities and virtual experiences could be found.”
“Now that the museum has reopened, those new pathways for connecting with audiences are still in play and have allowed us expanded opportunities to meet audiences where they are, even as we have resumed traditional, in-person events. Museum safety protocols, put in place help keep everyone as safe as possible and provide reassurance upon the Hunter’s reopening in July 2020, have begun to shift in light of increasing vaccination numbers. Although that transition has happened gradually, the Hunter’s in-person events have fully relaunched, with a very successful exhibition opening taking place at the end of May and a fundraising event celebrating the reopening of the museum’s renovated River Terrace occurring in mid-June. Summer campers are filling the museum with the joyful sounds of children immersed in fun and creativity, and early summer visitation is strong. Guest response to our exhibitions and programs has been overwhelmingly positive, and everyone seems to be excited to get back out and enjoy the arts in person again.” Find out more about the Hunter’s upcoming exhibitions and programs at huntermuseum.org.
Since 1965 Tennessee Craft has preserved and advanced the rich history and tradition of Tennessee craft. Grounded in the state’s handmade heritage, they offer multiple stages for today’s makers to showcase work to those engaged in the fine arts community. One-of-a-kind work shines at spring and fall Craft Fairs, Biennial Exhibitions showcasing the best of Tennessee Craft, community demonstrations, professional development workshops, the Master Artist Apprentice Program and more.
Executive Director, Kim M. Waag explains “after more than a year without an in-person event, we hosted the 50th Annual Tennessee Craft Fair in May, implementing COVID-19 precautions per the Metro Public Health Department (MPHD). We were pleased our partner MPHD distributed information and administered one-dose vaccines at the fair. As more people are vaccinated and case counts continue to drop, we stay informed of best practices for safe events and the potential health impact for artists, arts organizations, and the public. We have worked to develop a hybrid of our traditional programming, from moving to virtual professional development workshops with optional in person meet ups to launching a new online marketplace, Shop Tennessee Craft, later this year, offering a year-round connection between craft enthusiasts and artists.”
“We learned early in the pandemic that if we were going to continue to offer artists opportunities to sell their work and to accomplish professional development goals, then modifications were vital. We quickly adapted to virtual programming in expanding our impact and exploring connections and relationships with different audiences, and we will continue to include a virtual component in much of our programming. Listening to what artists needed and giving them the tools to develop new skills during the pandemic helped them pivot to new business ventures. We have realized over the past year that it is prudent to serve the arts community’s vast constituency with a hybrid portfolio of in-person and virtual offerings, encouraging artists to in their careers and connections with each other and the larger community.” The next Tennessee Craft Fair will be held October 8-10, 2021. The deadline for artists to apply is July 15. Check out tennesseecraft.org for more information about programs, events, and membership.
As the summer progresses and COVID 19 infection numbers decrease, progressively more organizations will offer an array of hybrid live and digital public programs, exhibitions, and events. While traveling throughout Tennessee, be sure to check the websites of the organizations you plan to visit to get the latest information on what is available.