Despite the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 community closures, the Art Center of the Bluegrass is finding ways to forge connections during social distancing. In addition to their own programming, including virtual exhibits, online classes, and art supply distribution, the Art Center is partnering with artists and arts organizations in the region – and around the world.
This week, the Art Center announced a digital collaboration with The Braid Arts Centre in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. Both organizations are re-imagining their programming while their buildings are closed and hit upon the idea of cross-posting content on their social media platforms. “We were both creating art-focused videos to share with our patrons,” says Exhibitions Director Brandon Long. “When the folks at The Braid approached us about sharing content, it was a great fit.”
The Art Center kicked things off on Tuesday, sharing a magic tutorial created by artist Caolan McBride for The Braid Arts Centre. Their counterparts in Ballymena, meanwhile, have been sharing drawing tutorials created by Brandon Long.
The relationship between the two organizations sparked in 2018 when Art Center Exhibitions Director Brandon Long visited Ballymena as part of a two-week artist exchange program facilitated by the Danville Sister Cities Commission. Ballymena is part of the Burough of Mid and East Antrim, which includes Danville’s sister city of Carrickfergus. “Art is really the foundation of our Sister City relationship,” explains Art Center Executive Director Niki Kinkade. “Since 2013, our two communities have been hosting artist exchanges that have yielded incredible results, from new theatrical productions to public art.”
Closer to home, the Art Center has also been using their digital platforms to showcase local artists. The Art Center has invited artists to create video tours of their home studios and has so far published tours by potter Paul Muth and glass artist Marie Taylor. “With everyone stuck at home, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to let artists share their workspaces,” says Kinkade. “Usually, we just see the finished creations, so it’s fascinating to look ‘behind the scenes’ and see where the artwork comes from.” The artist studio tours are visible on the Art Center Facebook page and YouTube channel. Artists interested in creating a brief video tour should contact Kate Snyder at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When asked about the importance of collaborating, Kinkade quotes Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear with a smile – “We will get through this together. Whether we’re working with the City of Danville on the Chalk Challenge, hosting virtual meetings for artist groups, or deepening our connections to arts organizations around the world, working together is the only way to move forward.”