Arts show takes on COVID-19

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CUMBERLAND — Last spring, as COVID-19 tightened its grip, a stunned nation watched as schools closed, then sporting events, movie theaters and Broadway, shopping malls, museums and theme parks. People retreated to their homes and shut their doors. It was and is in many ways, still is a time of fear and sadness that has affected everyone in ways great and small.

Cumberland Arts decided to fight back. With the idea that creative people had something to say about ‘the new normal,’ they announced a call-out for art for an exhibit entitled, “Art as Defiance in a Time of Pandemic.”

“We asked artists what their take on the COVID-19 pandemic was,” said Sarah Bowers, event chairman for Cumberland Arts. Artists were asked to create something that typified the way in which the pandemic is playing out on the economic, physical and mental well-being of Cumberland.

When the original specifications of limiting the show to Cumberland artists for the show proved too stringent, Bowers and company decided to open the competition.

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“Our initial focus was the impact of COVID-19 on the town of Cumberland,” Bowers said, “but we realized we were being too restrictive. There can be guidelines, but you need to allow the artists license.”

So the committee modified the description of the artist call-out. Artists were invited to select a subject expressive of their observations and experiences of the pandemic, be it inspirational or unsettling.

The show drew in nine artists including Greenfield artists Sandy Hall and Bob Hunt. The two, along with seven others, will be competing for a $500 first prize, two judges’ choice awards ($200 each) and four honorable mention prizes ($50 each).

The art in the exhibit isn’t typical art show fair. Teresa Barber’s “Fenced Off” shows a playground area fenced off to keep children from gathering and spreading COVID. Sandy Hall’s “Hair’s Red Salon Closed” depicts a business whose doors had to close temporarily due to COVID. Bob Hunt’s “Carhop Delivery Historic Steer Inn” features a waitress bringing food out to the car rather than waiting on and serving the customer inside the restaurant.

The exhibit is Cumberland Arts’ main event for the summer, replacing (temporarily) the Cumberland Arts Fair typically held in August. The show runs Sept. 9, 10 and 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Hendryx Mortuary, 11706 E. Washington St. The exhibit is free, but tickets for the event designate a specific time to tour the gallery. In that way, the gallery is able to keep the population of the room down to 10 or less people in accordance with social distancing protocols.

“We’re committed to safe distancing, complying and honoring things that we think could help right now,” Bowers said. “No one will come in without a mask.” Bowers added that refreshments will not be served as part of the reception.

The art — through photograph and video — can also be viewed virtually on the group’s Facebook page (Cumberland Arts) for the three days of the show.

All of the art from the show is for sale, ranging in price from $100 to $1900. Visit Cumberland Arts on Facebook for more information.