For this post, I started out with a plan to talk about our current exhibition, Biblio Spectaculum. It’s an exhibition that we weren’t sure would even happen. The original submission deadline was on March 24—a week after we closed to the public due to the pandemic. We decided to push the date back and hope for the best… and then we ended up pushing it back one more time. As the re-opening of our building to the public became more clear, things locked into place and we are now open by appointment.
While this story is a common one these days—so many things have been changed by COVID-19—it brought up a larger story. I started talking with Sarah about how what I had written was just an average description of our problem solving for this show. The things that she and I ended up talking about were the constant transitioning and pivoting of our programming and operations, more than just for this one show.
So I decided to pull together a narrative timeline of key moments during the pandemic—so far. It’s been a wild ride!
Wednesday, March 18: Sarah and I announced on Facebook and Instagram Live that we were closing to the public in response to growing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. We also announced that we had exciting plans to keep our programming going despite having our doors closed.
Friday, March 20: This was the day that our very first open studio event with artists in residence was scheduled to take place. We had received a grant a Finger Lakes Community Arts Grant for increased community engagement with our artists in residence, what a way to kick this off! While we didn’t have anyone physically in attendance, we did a Facebook and Instagram live video with Chicago-based printmaker, Lya Finston.
Monday, March 23: The launch of our new Online Interactive Exhibitions page on our website, which allows for people to view our exhibitions as they are installed at the gallery from the comfort of their own homes. This was a dream that Sarah and I thought up over 3 years ago and it took a pandemic to make it happen! We launched the online version of Painters Painting Painters, which was the exhibition that was on the walls when we closed. This was the BETA test for the next two exhibitions which opened the following week.
Tuesday, March 24: This was supposed to be the deadline for our national juried exhibition, Biblio Spectaculum. We postponed the submission deadline to April 11 and then again to May 9 to allow for people to submit despite the circumstances. We feel fortunate that we were still able to have this exhibition, which features 33 artists from 12 states!
Monday, March 30: We started sending weekly newsletters—they had been monthly prior to that—to keep people informed of our programming and expanded online content. We started weekly “Get to Know Us” blog posts, sharing photos of our personal art collections, music we like, book recommendations, favorite recipes, vacation spots, and more.
Wednesday, April 1: Two new exhibitions opened on both floors of the gallery, Up to Now, a solo exhibition by Chad Grohman on the main floor and Field Trip Visions, featuring work by Zanne Brunner, Judy Gohringer, Courtney Gruttadauria, and Nancy Valle on the second floor. While no one could visit the gallery in person, we still had an opening reception via Zoom and launched interactive versions of the exhibitions on this day.
Friday, April 3: The beginning of our weekly Art with Miss Maria video art classes as a substitute for our quarterly “Art Saturdays” workshops with gallery assistant and instructor, Maria Galens. These virtual workshops went on for 14 weeks(!) and can still be viewed on our YouTube channel.
Saturday, April 11: We recorded our first Revisiting the Studio interview with former artists in residence, Geena Massaro and Sam Fratto. We ended up interviewing 10 former residents over the next few weeks, these can all be seen on our YouTube channel as well.
Sunday, April 19: Art supply pick up for our very first Online Art Experience with 30 students in grades 1–6. The first sessions began on Wednesday the 23rd for grades 1–3 and Thursday the 24th for grades 4–6. Our instructor, Pam Viggiani, Sarah, and I met with these students for two 4-week sessions while they learned about the artists and work included in our exhibitions. This was an alternative to our in-person After School Art Experience classes. We were able to offer these online classes at no cost to families thanks to a Finger Lakes Community Arts Grant and the generous individual donations to support our youth programming.
Monday, April 20: We launched the first of 4 interviews with Zanne Brunner, Judy Gohringer, Courtney Gruttadauria, and Nancy Valle. Over the next 4 weeks, they shared images and stories from some of the places they visited in preparation for their exhibition, Field Trip Visions.
Wednesday, April 22: We had our first online book club—led by our literary arts coordinator, Rachel Crawford— on the collection of Chinese speculative fiction, That We May Live. These now happen on a monthly basis and will continue on into the fall. You can find out more at sulfurbooks.com
Tuesday, May 5: We participated in the Giving Tuesday Now campaign and were humbled by the generosity of our community—locally, regionally, and beyond—who donated towards our variety of arts programming. In such an uncertain time, it was heartwarming to see such amazing support!
Tuesday, May 12: Online bookbinding workshop with Rochester, NY based artist, Rachel Gootnick. Supply packs were picked up at the gallery and participants joined Rachel in a leather bookbinding workshop that was supposed to take place at our bookstore, Sulfur Books shortly after we closed.
Wednesday, June 10: The first day we were open to the public for appointments to view our exhibitions: Up to Now and Field Trip Visions. This was also the day that Open Minded, our 7th annual student painting exhibition went live on our Online Interactive Exhibitions page. We had 92 students from 5 area school districts participate in this virtual exhibition.
Wednesday, June 17: We had an online artist talk with Chad Grohman, as his exhibition was coming to an end. Since chad is an RIT alum and now professor of illustration, we were joined by Kat Bassney and Lisa Vasaturo of RIT’s office of alumni relations as well as the dean of the college of art and design at RIT, Todd Jokl. We talked about Chad’s work, the show, what it’s like to have a show open during a pandemic, and we also spent some time talking about the role of artists and arts organizations in the fight for social justice and positive change.
Saturday, June 27: This was the first day that Biblio Spectaculum was open to the public and we held an online opening reception on Facebook live. We announced the award winners—selected by exhibition juror Scott McCarney— who received a total of $1,000 and gave viewers a sneak peek of the exhibition.
As I finish writing this post we are nearing the end of July and next week, we’ll be taking Biblio Spectaculum down and installing our next show, The Print Club of Rochester’s 89 Member’s Exhibition. Just like Biblio Spectaculum, you will be able to visit the gallery by appointment and also see the show any time online. This hybrid in-person/online system that we’ve been doing for close to two months has been working well and we are all getting used to it.