Ottawa artists express relief as in-person art exhibit returns amid pandemic

Local artists say they are happy to be back to exhibit, sell and lend their work in a live show as an Ottawa non-profit group held its first in-person exhibition since the start of the pandemic of COVID-19.

Art Lending of Ottawa showcased works of art available for purchase, rental or hire-purchase on September 18. Sixty visitors came to the RA Center on Riverside Drive to view the works of 28 artists – a good start given the security restrictions, said group chairman Linda Bordage.

The first in-person exhibition follows more than a year of creating artwork while navigating the isolation and financial challenges of the pandemic. It was important for artists to share their work and worldview with an audience in person, said Anne Remmer Thompson, artist and past president of Art Lending.

“I think every artist felt relieved that their work was once again on physical display,” Thompson said.

“You meet the viewers, you get their feedback on the work or the show or the exhibit, and it’s much more meaningful that way,” she said.

Thompson said Art Lending executives have debated whether now is the right time to return to the RA Center or wait for a clearer picture of the fourth wave of COVID-19 in Ontario. Despite this reluctance, the show continued with contact tracing protocols, physical distancing, and capacity limits.

“We’re trying this now because at the very moment we can do it,” Thompson said. “At Christmas, who knows where the province will be. “

The event also featured the Art Lending debuts of seven artists, including carpenter day software designer Ben Gatien.

“I was really happy to take these pieces out of my basement and show them to people,” Gatien said. “Some of the nicest things I’ve ever done have been sitting in a box in my basement for the past year and a half. It’s good to take them out and put them where people like them.

Volunteer Moe Bordage highlighted the educational opportunity offered by participating in art lending events.

Ben Gatien’s wooden art wheel on display at the Art Lending of Ottawa exhibit at the RA Center on September 18. [Photo © Austin Steeves]

“The artists are all different,” Bordage said. “Some artists are very specific, others are very modern; you have photographers here. So you learn a bit from everyone.

“Like that wooden thing. I’ve never seen this before – it’s new, ”said Bordage, referring to Gatien’s woodworking. “So how did he do that, how did he make this wheel?”

Gatien had the answer.

“I do a lot of the design on the computer, and then I cut most of the parts with a laser cutter,” he said. “I started out with a small hobby laser cutter, just small, and now I have a really big laser cutter.”

Offering art online during COVID-19

Art Lending is offering online art with curbside pickup in response to pandemic travel restrictions. While it can reach different audiences that wouldn’t normally attend a live performance, the art doesn’t look the same as it does in person, Thompson said.

Paintings of different sizes hang on the wall.
Art lovers have a better idea of ​​the size and impact of a work in person than they would when seeing creations online, said Ottawa artist Anne Remmer Thompson. [Photo © Jonathan Tovell]

“If a painting is monumental and huge and you’re on your little device, it won’t have the same impact,” she said. “Conversely, if a painting is a tiny, delicate, intricate little thing and tries to draw you in, again – online, you’re not going to get it. “

“Online sort of doesn’t pack the same punch as the show,” said John Craig, a wildlife and nature photographer.

Online displays and virtual showcases offered artists another way to expand their reach when health restrictions also closed galleries in Canadian art centers such as Montreal and Vancouver.

Along with the group’s website, Craig said he relies on selling his art on Etsy, an e-commerce site that offers handmade items and gifts, as in-person sales have fallen to zero until now. ‘at this stage of the pandemic. The virtual store delivers items throughout North America and Europe. Since debuting on Etsy in 2016, Craig has said he believes he has sold more artwork online during the pandemic than in previous years.

As more and more people were working from home during the lockdowns, Thompson said it was fun to see a model grow in his online sales.

“Lots of paintings – well, I know for myself, the paintings that were purchased were for Zoom calls,” Thompson said. “People wanted the wall behind their heads when making their Zoom calls not to look boring, to make them better.”

Thompson said she believes Art Lending – even after the pandemic is over – will continue to offer the online option to buy or rent work from the group.

“I try to seek beauty, mainly because the world has gotten so bad there.”

Anne Remmer Thompson, Ottawa artist

Photographer John W. Walsh has a special appreciation for the online marketplace. He helped develop the site and was a sort of broker for art exchanges during the pandemic.

“I received a request for a photo from a client and contacted the artist to make sure it was available, and if it was, I would ask (the artist) to bring it to my house.” , explained Walsh. “And then I would ask the customer to come and pick him up from my house. “

For Gatien, the extra time spent in the studio during the pandemic offered the opportunity to explore new materials as he focused on the innovative art of laser-cut woodworking. Gatien’s technical illustrations add to an existing range of artistic styles and media at Art Lending.

Anne Remmer Thompson stands in front of five watercolors.
Anne Remmer Thompson stands next to the five watercolors she presented at the RA Center on September 18. It has been part of the Ottawa Art Loan since the early 1980s. [Photo © Jonathan Tovell]

Gatien started painting in his twenties, when the stress of daily work made him seek more relaxing activities. “I was working too hard,” said Gatien. “I was spending really long hours at work and needed to find a hobby. ”

Becoming a father of four made painting too time-consuming and messy.

“As soon as I took out my paintings, the kids would say ‘I want to paint too’,” Gatien said. “The paint was seeping everywhere – it wasn’t relaxing. So with the woodworking I’ll be there in my little shop and my kids will come with me and it’s relaxing.

Thompson and her husband traveled extensively during his retirement. She said she finds many inspirations for her watercolors along the way.

“I try to strive for beauty, mainly because the world has gotten so mean there,” said Thompson, former president of the Ottawa Watercolor Society.

“I just need to calm down and breathe and say, ‘Wow, this world has so much to offer in this life’, just as an antidote to other things – politics and the weather and the climate. , you name it, ”said Thompson.

Thompson said she painted less in the depths of COVID-19 travel restrictions as she bubbled with her family and grandchildren. She still found time to create seascapes and tranquil settings with watercolor paint, which gives an organic feel.

Infographic describing Art Lending of Ottawa.  Founded in 1970. Twenty-eight active members.  Four annual shows.  The paintings available are oil, acrylic, watercolor and mixed media works.  Other works of art available are pastels, hot wax art, wood art, mosaics, etc.
[Infographic © Austin Steeves]

“It helps me with my own particular anxieties regarding COVID and all the issues that have resulted from it,” Thompson said.

A major challenge that artists face during the pandemic has been financial sustainability. Thompson said she had applied for the Canada Emergency Benefit for months when she didn’t sell a lot of artwork. Other than that, she said artists without a stable income don’t have a lot of options.

The City of Ottawa acknowledged in an email that the pandemic has been particularly difficult for artists. But Dan Chenier, general manager of the city’s recreational, cultural and facilities services, said financial support was available.

Funding programs have continued to support individual artists, collectives and organizations throughout the pandemic, so that groups can continue to support artists and cultural workers, nurture cultural venues, and support the shift to programs. virtual and smaller activities at physical distance, ”Chenier said in a statement. E-mail.

The city invested a total of $ 354,000 in funding for local artists in 2020, an increase of about $ 50,000 from 2019, according to Chenier.

Walsh highlighted the longevity of Art Lending of Ottawa and the role played by local artists, inviting residents to attend future live art exhibitions.

“I encourage people to come and take a look,” Walsh said. “The organization has been around for many, many years – in fact, we celebrated our 50th anniversary last year. I think it’s a tribute to the artists we’ve been with for so long.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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