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Photos: Shelter in Place Gallery
Shelter In Place is a miniature, coronavirus-inspired gallery. It was launched by artist Eben Haines, who built the maquette and invited artists to submit works to scale.

If I didn’t believe that for most of us the lockdown would last a lot longer than the current “opening up” stuff, I’d write a post about happy I am to read books to grandchildren again and how sorry I am to see artists abandon their wildly inventive pandemic pursuits.

But I’m pretty sure most of us will still be self-distancing for many moons and enjoying the output from creative people that might never have happened but for coronavirus. I love following @covidartmuseum on Instagram, for example. Some of the submissions are a little too weird for me, but most of them make me laugh out loud. Another great source is the arts website Hyperallergic, where I recently learned about a miniature gallery called Shelter in Place.

Valentina Di Liscia wrote, “In the past month, a Boston gallery has managed to mount 15 exhibitions of brand-new works, with a rigorous program still to come. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, arts institutions around the globe shuttered one after the other; meanwhile, Shelter in Place Gallery [@shelterinplacegallery on Instagram] was not only founded during the crisis but continues to thrive.

“Of course, there’s a catch. Shelter In Place is a miniature gallery, measuring 20 by 30 inches and exhibiting scaled-down works in a model structure created using foam core, mat board, balsa wood, and plexiglass. Artists can submit works at a 1:12 or one inch to the foot scale, allowing them to create and show even ambitious, seemingly large-scale pieces — a romantic, suspended latex installation by Mary Pedicini; wall-to-wall canvases by B. Chehayeb — while traditional exhibition spaces remain closed. With high ceilings and skylights that flood the space with sunshine, the condensed gallery is impressively lifelike, giving artists room to get particularly creative. …

“The brilliant concept was devised by Eben Haines, a painter and graphic designer for exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston.

‘With the ongoing shutdowns and lockdowns across the globe, artists are having to stay home … So I’ve built SIP gallery as a new platform for Boston Artists (and eventually from all over) to allow for large scale artworks to be made at a desk or dining room table.’ …

“The idea first came to him back in 2018, long before the pandemic, when Haines was asked to participate in a group show at the Porch Gallery in Minneapolis titled Art Fair. The concept was simple: each artist received a 10-by-10-inch, white-painted MDF box that would serve as an ersatz fair booth where they could show scaled work. …

“Months later, as a rainy day project, he decided to create his own 1:12 scale model to house maquettes for large-scale works that he could not produce in his studio due to space or financial constraints. ‘But then the weather got better, and the more or less abandoned model stayed tucked away in my studio,’ he said.

“Enter the current crisis. Haines was one of more than 300 workers furloughed from the MFA Boston, which closed its doors in March … Haines dusted off the gallery model from years back and began making miniature paintings, initially as a strategy to continue working in his reduced studio space, which had shrunk from 400 square feet to a mere 10. But it dawned on him that other artists might be in a similar predicament, confined to less-than-ideal work conditions and aching to share their creations in a meaningful way. …

“All of the works on view are original, and it prioritizes new pieces as opposed to small copies of existing ones. Digital copies are all but prohibited. … So far, all works have arrived ready to be hung, which has made installations easier. …

“Haines emphasizes the project is not commercial; instead, any sales inquiries received are rerouted to the artists themselves, or to their galleries. Nicole Duennebier’s exhibition, for instance, nearly sold out before they could deliver the mini-paintings back to her gallery, 13FOREST. …

“Said Haines. ‘One of my ambitions for this project, besides urging people to step outside of their crisis mode for a little bit, is for artists to be able to use their submission proposals and photographs of their installed work to send to galleries, residencies, or grant programs, and have some momentum when the country opens back up. …

” ‘We’re honestly so busy with the local response we’ve had that it seems daunting to open it up, but once going to the post office gets a little safer and easier, I’d love to be able to show work from outside Boston,’ said Haines.”

Read the whole article at Hyperallergic, here. The pictures are amazing.

Wilhelm Neusser, “Untitled Bog Painting” (2020), oil on linen, a miniature.

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Photo: Topps Company
The 1954 original Ted Williams baseball card and a new version by artist JK5.

If these were normal times, the grandchildren in both families would be starting baseball, and John would be organizing parents to help coach the kids’ team. Right. Normal.

So very many American kids grew up with baseball! My brother Bo knew all the stats of pretty much every player back in the day and had a big baseball card collection. He was beyond thrilled the times that our family visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in upstate New York.

As you can imagine, today that great institution’s website features a “Virtual Hall of Fame Spotlight: Giamatti Research Center,” a “Virtual Field Trip: Geography: Baseball Coast to Coast,” and “Virtual Voices of the Game: Al Oliver.” What’s the world coming to?

Meanwhile, the baseball card company Topps has decided to have some fun.

As Peter Abraham reported at the Boston Globe in April, Topps has solicited artists to recreate some of the best-known and most valued cards.

“That he refused to wear a tie for even formal occasions was as close as Ted Williams came to being a rebel. … So the idea of 20 artists from such disciplines as graffiti, cartooning, jewelry design, and tattooing reimagining the look of his 1954 Topps baseball card would probably not sit well with Williams.

“Or maybe it would. In his own way, Williams was a stubborn individualist, [defying] the lords of baseball by using his Hall of Fame induction speech to call for the inclusion of Negro League players in Cooperstown.

“ ‘We’re all honoring him in our own individual way,’ said Joseph Ari Aloi, one of the artists who took on the unique project. ‘I think he’d like it.’

“Aloi, who is known professionally as JK5, graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and now works at a Brooklyn tattoo shop while pursuing myriad other interests. His homage to Williams was rendered in black and white with intricate details that resemble his tattoo designs and reflect a love of typography.

“In place of his bat, Williams is swinging a pencil, a symbol of the parallels between artists and athletes. What appear to be laser beams are shooting from his eyes. The shapes in the background reveal his name, number, and statistics. …

“Aloi jumped at the opportunity to work with baseball cards when his agent presented him with the proposal from Topps. Reconnecting with something from his past was energizing. …

“ ‘I wanted to bring it to life with my own aesthetics and make it something unique. I’ve had a lot of fun with this.’

Topps calls it Project 2020 because Aloi is one of 20 artists who are reinterpreting 20 classic cards. The 400 cards — plus some artist proofs — will be sold over a period of roughly 40 weeks in limited quantities. …

“Topps recruited a wide range of artists, including Groteskito, the creative director of Nike Basketball, and Sophia Chang, a New York illustrator who has collaborated with adidas and Puma.

“Jewelry designer Ben Baller, who has 1.4 million Instagram followers, did his Frank Thomas card with a diamond look that was similar to pieces he designed for Drake, Snoop Dogg, and Kanye West. …

“Along with Williams, the artists will re-create cards featuring Roberto Clemente, Ken Griffey Jr., Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, Ichiro Suzuki, and Mike Trout, among others. …

“The Williams card from 1954 card was traditional. There was an image of Williams smiling, a black-and-white photograph of his swing, and his careful, neat signature.

“ ‘It’s a classic card,’ said Aloi, who collected cards when he was a kid. ‘Ted Williams had such phenomenal stats. My father knew players from that era and always talked about him. For me, mixing two worlds appealed to my creativity and my sensibilities. With everything that has been going on, it’s been a good outlet.’ ”

More here.

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APTOPIX Virus Outbreak Germany

Art: Street artist FreeThinker via the Mercury News
Artists are reflecting our pandemic experience in whatever media they use. Some of the work ends up in the Covid Art Museum, some can be found on the street.

The Covid Art Museum (@covidartmuseum on Instagram) has provided some laughs for me lately. It’s one of the many new links I’ve added to my social media during the pandemic. I first learned about it at a site called OZY.

Dan Peleschuk reported, “With entire populations around the world locked inside, museums everywhere have closed their doors until the deadly coronavirus pandemic passes.

“Not this one. Which actually opened. …

“Three Barcelona-based advertising professionals came up with a bright idea: the Covid Art Museum (CAM), an Instagram account collecting the best COVID-19-related work out there.

“Launched in mid-March, just as Spain was careening into the health crisis, this volunteer effort showcases the creative fruits of mostly European artists who have something to say about how society’s changing before our eyes. …

“After all, ‘we are now in a period of very important reflection on everything,’ says CAM co-founder Irene Llorca, creative art director at marketing agency Honest Barcelona.

“Popular themes include creative pleas for consumers to stay home, as well as playful takes on the newly ubiquitous face masks. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, toilet paper features prominently too. Virtually every art form — photographs, illustrations, installations and much more — makes an appearance in the museum’s quickly growing archive. …

“London-based art director Thomas Ollivier, also known as Tom le French, has turned his attention to a series of photographic manipulations that comment, among other things, on what face masks might tell us about our future. Even after the crisis ends, he says, the objects might find their way into our normal routine. ‘Surely it will start to become like a handbag or an accessory, and obviously brands will step in and create their own version of it,’ he says. …

“For creators, it’s a free platform for their art. For everyone else, Llorca adds, ‘it’s a space that can give them strength and help them realize that they are not alone in this.

‘Maybe they’ll see that artwork by a Spanish person in Bilbao speaks directly about their current situation. It’s a way to connect people virtually.’

“Just like with every other aspect of life these days, it feels pointless to talk about future plans. But at the very least, Llorca says, a digital book might be in the works — plus a physical exhibition, for when it’s all over.” More.

In Angie Kordic’s Widewalls interview with the museum’s founders, Irene Llorca explains more: “From the artworks that we receive through our questionnaire, so far we have counted more than 50 different nationalities. We have also created the hashtag #CovidArtMuseum and many artists are using it. They send the artworks to us and we also look for them.

“The three of us are passionate about art and we follow many artists and art galleries; this has helped us find very interesting works.

“The main filter when choosing the pieces is that they are related to the current moment: the crisis of Covid19. That’s why we don’t close ourselves to any technique, we collect all kinds of art whether it’s illustrations, photographs, paintings, drawings, animations, video, etc. From all the works received or found, a selection is made to publish those that best reflect the current moment.” More.

If you are on Instagram, it’s definitely worth following @covidartmuseum.

Photo: Bored Panda

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Photo: CBC

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Image: Ozy

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Art: Andy Andersen via Hyperallergic
Andy Andersen’s depiction of Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as Saint Pantaleon the Healer. Andersen, a Los Angeles area illustrator, is one of many artists reimagining the doctor as pandemic cultural icon.

Don’t you love how creative people always find ways to have fun with current events, no matter how dire? Consider this charming story by Hakim Bishara at Hyperallergic, where we learn about the art community’s take on the doctor at the center of federal Covid-19 communications, the doctor that people trust.

“Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, is by all accounts the man of the hour [and] being showered with praise and admiration, sometimes uncomfortably, as he became the most recognized voice in the United States on the coronavirus pandemic.

“On social media, Fauci is being celebrated with thousands of artistic tributes, from admiring portraits and cartoons to tattoos, sock puppets, and saint icons bearing his image.

“One of the most intricate tributes to Fauci belongs to Andy Andersen, an illustrator based outside of Los Angeles. His illustration depicts the famed doctor as the late-medieval Saint Pantaleon the healer. ‘Saint Fauci’ holds a box of medicine, flanked by angels of death and spikey coronaviruses.

“ ‘I based it on some of the classic saint iconography that exists,’ Andersen explained to Hyperallergic in an email. ‘The pose, the composition, the elements all reference those iconic images, but updated with references to the virus.’

“ ‘To me, Fauci is the calming, reassuring voice during this confusing and unpredictable time,’ Andersen wrote. ‘He reminds me of a grandfather who assures you that everything will be ok. It will be hard, it will most likely suck, and sh#!t will happen, but in the end, everything will be ok. The silver lining is that humanity has such a competent, intellectual powerhouse on its side.’

“Several other fans also elevated Fauci to saintdom. One of them created a ‘Saint Fauci’ votive candle with the caption: ‘Not all heroes wear capes! 🙏🙏🙏🙏’ [See @taintedsaint_ on Instagram.]

“One of the most famous public images of Fauci captures him facepalming … during a coronavirus briefing at the White House. For many Americans, the image highlighted Fauci as a voice of reason …

“Brad Albright, an artist and an illustrator based in Texas, decided to perpetuate Fauci’s facepalm with a sticker. ‘Somebody get this man some (more) medals, honors and awards!!! Seriously. He’s a saint,’ he wrote in the caption.

“In addition, there are myriad admiring portraits of Fauci online, from pencil sketches to paintings and GIFs. One such artwork, titled ‘The Explainer in Chief,’ captures Fauci explaining the disease to the press cameras. The artist, Phil Bateman, writes in the caption: ‘Who else but Anthony Fauci could tell you terrifying things and yet whose terrifying explanations made you feel better because you believed only him.’ …

“How does this intense level of attention affect Fauci himself? When asked in an interview with CBS’s Gayle King if he feels personal pressure he calmly answered, ‘It’s my job. This is the life I’ve chosen and I’m doing it.’ ”

Read Hyperallergic here. And for more on the curious manifestations of Fauci fandom, check out the Verge.

By the way, did you ever see the documentary How to Survive a Plague, about the AIDS crisis?  Dr. Fauci was in government back then, too, and in the the early 1980s, before his hair turned gray, he was definitely not considered a hero by terrified AIDS victims. Clearly, he has learned a lot. Which proves that there really are second chances in life.

Photo: Donut Crazy via the Hartford Courant
Donut Crazy has honored infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci with special doughnuts bearing his image.

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Photo: Ramon Dompor
Artist Carlos Ruiz works on his mural to cover the boards on the Jade Garden Restaurant. Ruiz and other local artists donated their time and paint to help several restaurants in Seattle.

As we all know, Washington State had the first cluster of coronavirus cases in the US, and it is still struggling. That’s why the Seattle Times decided to solicit stories for a Stepping Up series meant to bring residents some encouragement.

In one example, Chris Talbott reported on artists beautifying boarded-up storefronts.

“Plywood is going up all over town. It’s not pretty. Give Seattle’s art community a little time, though, and it will catch up. Already artists are out and about, painting  murals to combat the growing blight as the novel coronavirus pandemic forces continued closures of local businesses and restaurants.

” ‘I have been homebound mostly like everybody else and trying to think of ways that I can help my community,’ artist Amanda Bishop said.

‘I’ve been feeling a little bit helpless because I’m not on the front lines. I’m not a nurse, I’m not a doctor. I don’t have a ton of money and my husband and I both lost work because of the virus. So when this opportunity came up, I was like, “This is a way that I can use my skills because this is my full-time thing.” ‘

“Working with permission from owners through the group Overall Creative, Bishop has started painting murals. She spent Sunday at the corner of Pike Street and 10th Avenue working in front of the Comet Tavern and Lost Lake Café along with other artists, each presenting their own vision. …

“Bishop said, ‘I actually did have a lot of people come up and say thank you. And I’ve done a ton of murals over the last eight years of doing this professionally and I haven’t had that as much as I had the last two days.’

“Plywood started going up [in March] after vandals began smashing windows of closed businesses. That led to more plywood from store owners who feared they might be next. Things were starting to look bleak all over town.

“The folks at Venue in Ballard realized this immediately. The shop sells the work of local artists and features a row of large picture windows. There was no question the windows needed to be covered up, but plywood seemed so … blah. So owners decided to hire a painter to beautify the plywood with a forest scene. …

“Venue owner Diane Macrae said, ‘Knowing artists are struggling as well with canceled shows and lack of sales, we figured it was a chance to provide some additional work for them. Our store is all about supporting local artists, so it made sense to continue to do this during this time in any way we can.’

“A similar effort has been under way in the International District and Little Saigon areas after vandals took out the windows of several restaurants nearly two weeks ago. …

“Ivy Chan and her family, which has run Jade Garden for 17 years, aren’t sure if the vandals were trying to break in or were just out to cause damage. But she feels the opportunity arose because the streets are virtually empty thanks to the stay-at-home order.

“ ‘Those people, they like to take advantage of the fact that there’s less people now because they’re all trying to do their diligent part to stay home,’ Chan said. “And then other people are like, ’Oh, it’s easier for me to go out there and do stuff. There’s less police patrolling, there’s less eyes to watch.’ …

“Keoke Silvano, a local photographer, … organized a group of artists who proceeded to paint the colorful mural at Jade Garden. He hopes it’s just the start, and that painters who might be out of work or looking for a way to contribute will continue the effort for businesses forced into fortress mode. …

“ ‘It seems to me that some of these businesses might’ve been targeted because they are Asian businesses,’ Silvano said. … He decided to fight back and put out word to the art community. He ended up with a half dozen or so painters who decorated the front of Jade Garden in a variety of colorful styles. They used mostly spray paint to craft scenes that included a meal of noodles, vegetables and tea with a fortune cookie, and a Seattle skyline framed by jacaranda blossoms.”

More here.

Isn’t that the way things go? First something bad like vandalism happens, then individuals in the community basically say, “I’m not on that team” — and join forces.

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Photo: The Art Newspaper
ProjectArt provides free after-school arts classes to children and teens at public libraries in major US cities.

When Suzanne lived in Harlem in the early 2000s, she loved her volunteer gig at a free arts program for kids who were not getting arts education in the city schools. Today I still follow FreeArtsNYC on Facebook, where I especially love the quotes from children inspired by the program.

As Tess Thackara writes at UK-based The Art Newspaper, “Exposure to the arts gives us the tools to know ourselves and others better. It bolsters our self-esteem, helps us communicate and improves our performance in academic or professional areas of our lives. … Yet, since the 1980s, access to arts education for American schoolchildren has been on the decline — particularly in school districts with high populations of minority students. …

“But where the American public school system is failing children, non-profits are stepping in to fill the void, and one in particular has ambitious plans to become the largest free art school for children in the country.

“[ProjectArt], an initiative founded by Adarsh Alphons in Harlem in 2011, is expanding to New Orleans and San Francisco, bringing arts access to two cities with large communities of homeless young people and giving the organisation a presence in a total of eight cities across the US. …

“Its executive director, Diana Buckley Muchmore, who has led the organisation’s daily operations since last November, volunteered with ProjectArt in its early days, and one experience impressed on her the impact that art can make in a child’s development.

“Joining her friend Alphons in teaching a class of ten students in a Harlem community center, Buckley Muchmore met a boy named Malikai. ‘He was non-verbal, very quiet, but I connected with him through a sculpture he was making out of foil and through this art-making, he slowly started to open up to describe his work,’ she remembers. …

“Since then, Buckley Muchmore has watched as ProjectArt has embraced a model, adopted in 2012, of partnering with the country’s public library systems. The libraries give them free space, access to existing communities and materials to inspire the children’s creations. ‘There are 16,000 public libraries in the US; there are 14,000 Starbucks — to give you an idea of the magnitude of libraries,’ she says.

“Artist-teachers, who go through a competitive review and interview process, receive a studio in a library, in addition to payment, and make their own work throughout the year, often in collaboration with the students. Students showcase their work in an exhibition at the end of the school year.

“In the meantime, the organisation is working to serve the particular needs (and capitalise on the assets) of its newest cities. In San Francisco … [Buckley Muchmore has] an eye on big companies like Airbnb and Adobe, which she hopes to approach for corporate funding. (The organisation also receives grants from foundations and individual donors.) …

” ‘In terms of less populated communities, we’ll get there too,’ says Buckley Muchmore. ‘Eventually, we’ll be in all the cities that have libraries.’ ” More here.

The model is a little different from Free Arts NYC, which relies more on volunteers, but it’s similar to one my friend Meredith founded in Lowell, Mass., which had practicing artists doing the teaching. In all three models, the classes are free for students.

Oh! And do add “Muchmore” to your list of interesting names!

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Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters
Girls from Eritrea play in an open area opposite Tel Aviv’s artsy but grimy “new” Central Bus Station.

Things change, and sometimes names don’t fit anymore. When I was a kid, I knew a girl called Bambi. Today she would be in her 70s, and I can’t imagine the cute name still works. How about the war-torn Middle East, once called the “Cradle of Civilization,” where if you are determined, you can visit the dried-up “Fertile Crescent”?

In today’s story, a bus station still called “new” actually opened for business in 1993 and is a derelict mess. Fortunately, there is nothing like a derelict mess to inspire artists to go into creative overdrive.

Ruth Eglash reports a the Washington Post, “It’s impossible to remain apathetic toward Tel Aviv’s ‘new’ Central Bus Station, a grimy, peeling concrete structure that spans five blocks and reaches seven stories in a run-down section of this bustling city.

“No longer new — it opened its doors in 1993 — and certainly not central, the bus station evokes sharp responses from anyone who steps inside. Some are fascinated with the urban eyesore, while for others, it instills fear after years of violent crime marred its reputation.

“Designed by renowned Israeli architect Ram Karmi, the hulking station, said to be the second largest in the world, was envisioned as housing an entire city under one roof. But Karmi’s brutalist style, with coarsely strewn stairwells, mezzanine floors, winding walkways, vast corridors and dark hidden spaces made the station impractical and impossible to navigate almost from the start.

“Twenty-six years later, its legacy is as rough and as unwelcoming as the abandoned stores and deserted floors inside it. Only a small part of the station is used today for daily travel, with most commuters hurrying through, hoping to spend as little time there as possible.

“But the expansive space has given rise to a cast of exotic characters and myriad artistic initiatives that take advantage of the unique charms of this gritty interior.

“The surrounding neighborhood is populated by a mix of African migrants, Filipino care workers and longtime Israeli residents, all of whom mill about the station’s ultracheap clothing stores, bargain electronic outlets, beauty salons and foreign food markets.

“Over the past five years, artists have realized the benefits of this unadorned space, brightening its walls with graffiti on the seventh floor or filling the abandoned stores on the fifth with modern installations. A Yiddish Cultural Center and a bat colony also call the station home. …

“A local theater group has adopted the bus station for its site-specific and immersive performances. In ‘Seven,’ an artistic interpretation of the seven deadly sins, the Mystorin Theatre Ensemble spotlights some of the station’s darkest corners: a former waiting area it has renamed ‘the red square,’ the oddly painted concrete staircase and even the dreaded first floor, with its abandoned movie theater, stores, cafes and ticket booths.

‘It’s an urban playground for artists,’ said actress and theater manager Dana Forer. ‘For us, this is an ideal space. We have seven floors, and the people who come here help turn our performance into a world of fantasy and reality.’

I need to ask my friend Kai what he thinks of this example of Brutalist architecture. He’s the only person I know who has a good word to say for Boston’s unloved Brutalist city hall. Because he’s a guy who has a way of bringing out the good side of almost anyything, I try to understand what he sees in it when I pass by.

I should also mention Kai has a gentle and lovable pitbull for a pet.

For some nice pictures of the art projects in the Tel Aviv bus station, click here.

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