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Photo: Walter McBride/ Getty Images
Using drones to clean theaters could have long-lasting effects. Here’s Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theatre with no people.

The other day, in my friend’s yard (six feet apart), we were discussing whether there were any positive things that would come out of the coronavirus — you know, like people washing their hands more and coughing into their elbows more and hence fewer colds. On this blog, we’ve seen lots of ideas from the arts community that could also continue in some form.  And what about more widespread appreciation of nature and healthy family relationships?

Changes in the way some companies do business may survive, too, but whether they will be positive remains to be seen. I’d be sorry to think the drone in today’s story would put anyone out of work. But as a curiosity, it’s something to talk about.

Marc Hershberg writes at Forbes, “As Broadway executives debate different strategies for reopening theaters following the COVID-19 pandemic, a Buffalo-based start-up company named EagleHawk has developed drones to spray disinfectants in Broadway theaters. …

“The disinfectant is stored on the ground, and pumped through a hose to the hovering drone, which then spreads it throughout the theater. Meanwhile, another drone drifts underneath it to make sure that the hose does not get tangled in any of the seats. …

“ ‘A Broadway theater could be disinfected by a drone in less than an hour, and without putting people on the front line,’ [Will Schulmeister, EagleHawk’s chief operating officer] said.

“While Broadway theater owners might be afraid of allowing the machines to flutter around their landmarked venues, the executives at EagleHawk insist that it is safe to operate inside. … The technology has been tested in several large venues, including KeyBank Center, the arena of the Buffalo Sabres professional hockey team. …

“While following the government guidelines for cleaning surfaces to get rid of pathogens like SARS-CoV-2, ‘we can control the liquid spray enough to not over-saturate the seats and still meet disinfection requirements,’ Schulmeister stated. …

“ ‘I could see the new drone technology being a good choice for arenas, stadiums, and large performing arts centers with thousands of seats,’ commented Susquehanna University theatre professor Erik Viker.

“While the leading Broadway theater owners declined to discuss their plans for cleaning seats after the pandemic, some facilities folks do not think that using the drones would fly.

“ ‘Actors are super hyper-sensitive to anything sprayed in the air,’ recognized a former theater executive. It is possible that the chemicals used to sanitize the seats might irritate some performers and affect their vocal abilities, much like dust and mildew. …

“Some smaller theaters have been experimenting with other possible alternatives, such as wands that emit ultraviolet light and machines that make antibacterial fogs. ‘We’re spending money on things to make the audience feel more comfortable,’ commented one small theater owner in Florida.” More at Forbes, here.

What coronovirus effects do you believe will last, if not cleaning by drone? More sense of community? More individualism and self-sufficiency? Sourcing food locally?

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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: Simone Saunders
Thanks to the pandemic and the Long Distance Art series, Canadian artist Simone Saunders is making connections with artists around the world.

The other day, I was talking to a friend about activities that were started only because of coronavirus self-distancing but were perhaps enough fun to keep doing in the future.

I like the FaceTime meetings that my husband and I have managed to do a couple times with our grown children when the grandchildren were otherwise occupied. The conversations were funny.

My friend mentioned an art lecture that would previously have had a dozen local students but is now online and attracting hundreds of international participants. She also spoke of a Zoom call with nieces and nephews around the country, marveling, “We’ve never all been together at the same time before!”

On the theme of helpful pandemic discoveries, here’s a report by Bianca Hillier at Public Radio International’s the World about an art collaboration that also might last beyond the pandemic.

“Speaking a dream or a goal into existence has little evidence proving its effectiveness. But for Nick Green, creator of the Social Distancing Festival, the practice has worked.

“ ‘My dream is to hear the story of two artists that have met through my site and collaborate on some really profound piece of art,’ Green told the World in March. His site aggregates content from artists whose performances have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. ‘And they live across the world and never would have met, otherwise.’

“Weeks later, Green’s dream came to fruition.

“ ‘It’s quite poetic that we’re speaking again, given the last words in our last interview of what my big dream was — to have this become more of a collaborative project,’ Green told the World more recently. ‘And now, there have been some new projects happening that are really, really exciting.’ …

Long Distance Art, which launched this week, is an international, multidisciplinary collaborative art series that emerged from the Social Distancing Festival. Artists can contact Green and inquire about collaborating with another artist they’ve seen on the site, or have Green pair them with another artist of his choosing. …

“ ‘For online art, I’ve become a matchmaker,’ he joked. … Green’s matchmaking magic has recently connected a team of Canadian musicians with a dancer in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Barbara Johnston, a member of the Toronto-based composing team alongside Anika Johnson and Suzy Wilde, was contacted by Green and immediately thought the idea was ‘the most exciting thing possible in the world.’ Once paired with Tanzanian dancer Tadhi Alawi, Johnston’s team got to work. …

“Johnston said. ‘We just wrote an email about what we felt the song was about, how we thought the themes could be expanded upon, how certain aspects of what’s going on in the world can relate to what this song is about. And he wrote us back this beautiful email the next day. And we just began sharing emails back and forth, talking about our process, talking about the song and the movement to the song.’

“The final product of the collaboration is a video showing Alawi dancing to ‘Wild Heart,’ a song composed by Johnston and her team. It’s a partnership unlike any Johnston’s been a part of, she said, but one she wants to explore more. …

“ ‘It’s just amazing how quickly we connected as collaborators without ever having met, and with being, you know, literally a world apart. … All I want to do now is try to find ways to connect with people. And I feel that this is an opportunity to see beyond the barriers that exist and have existed, because we’re in unknown land now. We’re just trusting in the process.’ …

“Other collaborations in the Long Distance Art series’ unveiling include work between Calgary, Canada-based visual artist Simone Elizabeth Saunders and Tekikki Walker, a Cleveland, Ohio based multimedia designer. Painter Liza Merkalova, based in Adelaide, Australia, also teamed up with New York musician Charlie Rauh. …

“As venue doors remain closed, laptop computers remain open. Green said his aspirations for the Social Distancing Festival and the Long Distance Art series aren’t canceled — but they need funds to sustain themselves.

“ ‘A dream of mine is that there might be someone or an organization out there who sees that this is the artistic embodiment of connecting people across the world and global conversations about humanity and lived experiences,’ Green said. ‘And they might say, “Hey, you know, that aligns really well with what we, as an organization, are doing. Why don’t we put some money into this?” …

” ‘Why stop now?’ ”

More at PRI, here.

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Photo: Mizuki Production/via Kyodo
An amabie drawn by the late manga artist Shigeru Mizuki. The amabie, says National Public Radio, is a “sea monster from 19th century Japanese folklore that has become an Internet meme and pop culture mascot in the fight against COVID-19.”

Isn’t it interesting how we turn to ancient wisdom and mythology to find meaning in crisis? It’s not so much that we believe in fantasies, but we begin to realize that metaphor may have something to tell us that can’t be captured in headlines or scientific reports.

Consider the little amabie, a friendly, protective monster that has risen up from Japanese folklore to address coronavirus.

From the Japan Times: “Social media users have been getting creative recently with images of a legendary Japanese [monster] said to have emerged from the sea and prophesied an epidemic. …

“The story of the half-human, half-fish amabie monster was first featured in a 19th century woodblock-printed news sheet from the Edo Period (1603-1868). The creature was depicted with long hair and a beak, and a body covered in scales.

“An amabie is said to have [told a Kumamoto] official, ‘There will be a bountiful harvest for six years, but disease will also spread. Quickly draw a picture of me and show it to the people.’ …

“On March 6, Kyoto University Library posted on its Twitter account a picture of the original news sheet, dated April 1846, with an illustration of an amabie and a description beside it. …  Since then, social media users have posted amabie images in myriad forms — including clay figurines, embroidery, paper cutouts and manga — alongside phrases wishing for an early end to the current pandemic. …

“A drawing of the monster by late manga artist Shigeru Mizuki (1922-2015) [was] published on the Mizuki Production Twitter account on March 17. …

” ‘Japan has traditionally had a custom of trying to drive off epidemics by such means as drawing oni ogres on pieces of paper and displaying them,’ said Yuji Yamada, a professor at Mie University who is well versed in the history of faith practices in Japan.

“ When many people are suffering and dying, our wish for an end (of the pandemic) is the same in all ages,’ he said.” More at the Japan Times, here.

National Public Radio (NPR) points out that even the Japanese health ministry has pressed the amabie into service:

” ‘Stop the infection from spreading!’ The words appear to come straight from the beak of a creature with a bird’s head, human hair and a fish’s scaly body, in a recent public service announcement from Japan’s health ministry.’ ” More at NPR, here.

P.S. Since most of us continue to be fascinated by humanoids sporting fish tails, I have to point you to Asakiyume’s post about a real-life maker of mermaid and merman tails, here.

Art: Kaori Hamura Long
At NPR, another illustration of an Amabie.

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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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I see a lot of discussion on social media about whether this company or that school is doing the moral thing in the pandemic, and I think it’s reasonable to criticize wealthy institutions when they lay off employees with little severance or health-care coverage or when they fail to help college students with housing if they can’t go home. But some organizations use their ample resources more ethically. Consider Yale University’s School of Music.

Zach Finkelstein writes at Middle Class Artist about a massive stimulus package for music students that earlier this month, the Yale University School of Music “offered its students, over 200 young musicians — a relief package on a sweeping, unprecedented scale.

“In a March 31st letter to alumni, Dean Robert Blocker outlined an ambitious plan to provide aid, including ‘a one-time stipend of $500’ to all students to assist with travel and expenses; full pay, despite social distancing, for all student employees through May 1st, 2020; and relocation of all international students who could not return home to University housing.

“For the remainder of the semester, Blocker announced that all classes and degree recitals have moved online. …

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Photo: Matt Fried

“The Yale School of Music is in a rarefied position among its peers to provide aid. Under the leadership of Dean Blocker, the school has grown its endowment from $29 million to over $400 million, in part due to a ‘transformative $100 million gift.’ Since 2005, thanks to this generous donation all students admitted receive a full tuition award and fellowship.’ …

“Alumni interviewed were deeply moved by the School’s actions on behalf of students: ‘I am proud to know that my alma mater, the Yale School of Music, is taking proactive, compassionate steps to aid its students during the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. … By putting its considerable resources to good use – such as housing students, disbursing emergency funds, or paying student employees for cancelled work — the YSM is taking a lead role among its peers in finding a helpful, humane response. This is a wildly scary time for many musicians around the world, and it is heartwarming to see a world-class educational institution stand up and support its artists.’

“Another alumni also stated their pride in Yale, and that the email ‘showed the generosity possible from heavily-endowed institutions as well as a level of interpersonal caring that has not been exemplified across the board, in the university or professional settings. Our student colleagues are some of the most vulnerable and impressionable amongst us, and Yale’s willingness to help with issues of housing and travel, as well as extending a generous financial donation to each student, sets a great example to the community at large.’ ”

You might say, Well, look what a wealthy institution it is! But there is no end of examples of wealthy institutions that are not doing much of anything. The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, for example, received $25 million from Congress as part of a coronavirus relief package and promptly furloughed workers, saying it was running out of money. And while Amazon’s Jeff Bezos gives millions to Covid-19 relief, he is making extra billions for himself and not protecting his workers.

So I have to applaud whoever does the right thing for people who are in their care.

More at Middle Class Artist, here.

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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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