As COVID-19 spreads across Brooklyn and New York City, the arts and cultural organizations that give life to our communities are having to close their doors to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

In recent days, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim, the Brooklyn Museum, BRIC House, BAM, and many more renowned institutions have shut down to the public, and the same situation is unfolding with arts organizations across the country.

Libraries, smaller museums and galleries are all in the same boat, with doors closed, public programming cancelled, and workers told to either work from home or that they longer have a job… and the situation continues to get more uncertain.

So what do these institutions, which rely on in-person interactions and viewings, do in a world confined to apartments and houses?

Isabella Howard. Photo: Supplied.

According to Bushwick-based gallery exhibition manager, Isabella Howard, they have to think on their feet.

Howard, who is the exhibitions and special projects manager at Lower East Side documentary photography gallery, Anastasia Gallery, said although the gallery had closed its physical doors, there were no plans to shut down its programming to the community.

“We had to think on our feet and find ways to continue to highlight important social and environmental issues, as these problems are not going away but are exacerbated by the pandemic,” Howard told BK Reader.

 “We found some great software that allowed us to create a 3D virtual walkthrough of our exhibitions so we could continue our programming.”

Anastasia Gallery is amongst a range of galleries and other arts institutions that have pivoted to online programming as a way to stay connected to the community and continue to provide art as a form of relief and education through these stressful times.

231 galleries are taking part in Art Basel’s Online Viewing Rooms, which was launched this month after the fair canceled its Hong Kong edition, according to Hypoallergenic. The 92nd Street Y in New York has also decided to go online, livestreaming upcoming concerts and lectures and offering hundreds of online art classes, and the Metropolitan Opera is also offering free virtual concerts. Online platforms are also starting to appear to support the artists who have had their shows cancelled or delayed, including the Instagram account @SocialDistanceGallery

At Anastasia Gallery, Howard said works were still being sold through the online viewing rooms to support the documentary photographers. The gallery’s first show to go online is called Caminantes, which will include a series of photographs by the Ecuadorian artist Felipe Jácome. The series highlights the plight of Venezuelan migrants who fled the country on foot due to the plummeting economy and hyperinflation, and shows portraits of the migrants printed on now obsolete Venezuelan currency.

Howard said it was important for the gallery, in these times of intense global uncertainty, to continue to show the issues the world continued to face, and how the pandemic would be affecting people differently in different societies. And she said it was vital to continue to support local and international artists to make sure they had the means to get through this period.

The team at Brooklyn Arts Council has organized a digital booklet of resources on healthcare, newly available funding, organizing tips, and other critical information for artists here.

There is also a national list of resources available to artists who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.


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