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Making Art during COVID

At the beginning of 2020, I had just spent two years preparing for my third 3-woman exhibit with my art group-Gayle Pritchard and Gail Crum. We meet every week and have done so for over 10 years. The culmination of this was our exhibit, "Women in Conversation", at the Stocker Arts Center at Lorain County Community College which opened in February and was supposed to close in April.

The gallery was huge and recently renovated. There were movable walls, some colored, and an amazing lighting set-up. We were worried we wouldn't have enough work to fill the space since the gallery was huge.

For my "Fairy-Tales Reimagined" series, I was concerned that they would get lost in the large space. I came up with the idea of creating a "room" within the gallery to show these small intimate pieces. The gallery director and her assistant even created a sort of fireplace mantel to showcase this series. We brought in a rug and a chair and some antique tables and make a corner of the gallery into a tiny room! It was a big success.

Opening night was dramatic as right at the end there was a fire alarm and everyone dispersed into the cold February night. Little did we know that before our official "closing" event, we would be shut down for 8 months by COVID!

The art sat there quietly, in that eerie, quiet space through the summer until we were able to have our new closing in September, with socially distanced attendance and fully masked attendees.

During that shutdown time, we were unable to have our weekly meetings. Instead, we each picked an old book that we turned into an altered book and did a "round-robin" where we each took turns working on collaging/altering pages in each others books and dropping them off at our houses to trade. We talked over text and took joy in this shared art-making experience.

Each of our books had a sort of theme. Gayle Pritchard altered a book on how to draw circus animals, which turned into a commentary on current politics. Gail Crum had a German children's book with illustrations. Gayle P. even managed to translate a section called "Fat Bertha" into English. My book was a 1950's children's encyclopedia. Each page was filled with illustrations that we incorporated into our collages or pasted over.

A local exhibit at Worthington Yards called "Art Made in the Shutdown" showed two of our altered books for their exhibit. There was even a short video of the show where they highlighted our books. It was quite a show, and I was happy to be included as part of it.

Art goes on and was a balm for us during this difficult time. These altered books kept us connected and engaged and served as a conduit for us to express our reactions to this unique time. I, for one, am glad to have this fascinating, shared record of this time for years to come.

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