Nevada County artists adapt, host online galleries, concerts and workshops

“When the pandemic hit and everything closed, we had to kind of scramble to figure out how this was going to work,” said Juliette Morris Williams, curator and artist-in-residence at the Osborn Woods Gallery in Nevada City.

Morris Williams has spearheaded the organization of the gallery’s current exhibition, “HOME,” which features work submitted by 16 local artists — including Morris Williams’ own sculptures.

Other artwork featured in “HOME” includes paintings, photography and mixed media installations.

The themes of home and belonging had already been chosen for the exhibition prior to the onset of COVID-19-related closures, but the name took on additional weight as “HOME” was forced online, and visitors would visit only from their own homes.

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“What we realized was that the idea of home was becoming even more meaningful,” said Morris Williams. “It just added even more layers to what had already been planned.

“As it went on, I just thought we needed to do more,” she said, adding that she has improvised much of the planning so far, having never organized an online exhibition before. Looking toward the future, Morris Williams plans to share videos and extended artists’ statements, elements she feels could bring the pieces to life for online visitors.

While no sales have been made so far through “HOME,” Morris Williams is optimistic about the exposure online presence can provide for Osborn Woods. Its website has received more traffic than ever.

“I’m eager to share how this county is so full of artists, to showcase the art being made here. Maybe, when things are relaxed, people will have an idea of how fun this gallery is,” said Morris Williams. “Getting the world interested in our tiny gallery sounds fun.”

David Wong, board president at Art Works Gallery in Grass Valley, similarly has seen ups and downs while the gallery holds a virtual art sale — an event currently on its third biweekly rotation of featured artists.

So far, the virtual sale has featured 10 pieces of local artists’ work per cycle, including paintings, metalwork and collage art.

“We have had people buy things here and there while we’re closed, but it’s nothing like when we have a physical presence,” said Wong. “Everybody really wants to come in to look, feel, and touch.”

Wong added that, since Art Works has been open for 10 years, recent sales have been bolstered by the support of community members for familiar artists at the gallery. He added that the gallery has customers from across the country, many of whom are only in the area once a year. A virtual sale brings them unprecedented access to the art.

When Art Works reopens its Mill Street storefront on June 17, Wong sees virtual sales continuing to play a role in the gallery’s outreach.

“People are more and more used to virtual sales,” Wong said. “It’s not going to replace the physical location, but I think it is here to stay.”

A DISTANT AUDIENCE

Local vocalist and musician Cassidy Joy has been making the most out of this time apart from live audiences.

Under normal circumstances, Joy performs at least once per weekend, generally in western Nevada County bars, restaurants and theaters. As of now, however, her entire summer performance schedule has been canceled with the exception of one show.

That outdoor performance, set tentatively for mid-July, will depend on a clearer picture of associated risks than is currently available to Joy or the venue operator.

“I’m in favor of being responsible about the situation, so I’m all for everyone doing what they need to do,” said Joy, in reference to the public health precautions driving the cancellations. “It’s just difficult not knowing.”

One solution to the closure of traditional performance venues has been online streaming, which Joy has used for two performances so far, taking to Facebook Live to perform to an all new audience.

This has proven an unpredictable source of income, relying on virtual tips — a challenging situation for Joy, whose performances normally brought in 50% of her income.

On that front, she is looking toward studio recording — both of her own songs and contributions to collaborative musical projects — as a means of making money which is still viable under current distancing recommendations.

Joy also describes the experience of performing from home as “strange,” missing her favorite parts of performing, from the sight of audience members mouthing along to the lyrics with her to the connections made after a show when she is able to meet them personally.

However, the online concerts did present a wider reach. “When I played online, I was getting comments from people all the way on the other side of the country, and it was really cool to get feedback from people I’d never have met,” said Joy.

“In that sense, it’s a different kind of lucrative,” she said. “It’s definitely not the same kind of spiritual fulfillment, but it is handy that I can expand my horizons in that way.”

EXPANDED COMMUNITY

Karen Terrey, owner of Tangled Roots Writing, has decided online workshops are here to stay for her coaching and editing business.

Terrey, who is based in Truckee, offers poetry, fiction, and nonfiction writing workshops for all levels of experience. Where these had normally taken place over a cup of tea in her living room, they have been held over Zoom calls for the past two months.

While video calls presented some awkwardness at first, prompting Terrey to break long sessions into a series of shorter ones, the benefits have outweighed difficulties in this case.

For example, she has felt inspired to add new elements to workshops which are made easier by their virtual setting, such as the sharing of relevant videos and other media to all participants’ screens.

“It was a big switch, but the urgency I felt to figure out a way to keep going actually benefited my business,” said Terrey.

She organized the new workshop format quickly enough that there was no delay to her original weekly schedule.

“I’m thinking that now I won’t ever have to cancel workshops because of weather,” she added, explaining clients often have a difficult time traveling to her Truckee home during snowstorms.

The expanded access provided by the new workshop format has also brought a larger writing community closer together, according to Terrey. She shared that the Sierra Poetry Festival, which normally has around 200 attendees, saw over 800 visitors from 23 different countries when it was held virtually in April.

“The literary community has really embraced going online,” she said. “It was amazing.”

Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union.

— to www.theunion.com

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