Artists adapt and overcome struggles caused by COVID-19

Comedian and St. Thomas University graduate Anthony Bryan, seen in this file photo, hopes Shivering Songs can take place in February. (Jerry-Faye Flatt/AQ)

As the province shifted into the orange phase and now the red phase, artists no longer present their art at public gatherings. Anthony Bryan, a St. Thomas University graduate and local comedian, has been performing through Zoom and COVID-19 friendly events.

“It’s kind of weird because you now have to think how to get [the] energy [from the crowd] and it feels like whatever plan you have has to be redone,” said Bryan.

Bryan has worked with NotaBle Acts and the Hot Garbage Players, as well as regular open-mic comedy nights at The Cap. He was also one of several artists lined up to perform at the Shivering Songs Festival which, was supposed to be from Jan. 21 to 24 before it was postponed to a later date due to COVID-19.

Many live-performances were postponed or cancelled. For performance artists like Bryan, these restrictions meant learning how to connect with audiences without seeing or hearing their reactions. 

“They were some of the worst experiences I’ve had, because it doesn’t really work at all,” said Bryan. “It was weird to also have to watch myself [perform], but not hear any response.”

Performing artists are not the only ones having to change their methods. Wendy Johnston is an award-winning potter and owner of Wendy Johnson’s Art Gallery in Hopewell Cape, N.B. The gallery houses the works of over a hundred Atlantic Canadian artists. 

Wendy Johnston, an award-winning potter, said the travel restrictions from COVID-19 have taken a toll on the revenue of her business. (Submitted: Wendy Johnston)

Johnston said the travel restrictions from COVID have taken a toll on the revenue of her business. 

“The attendance to the gallery has gone down by 50 per cent,” said Johnston.

Despite the struggles caused by the virus, artists aren’t letting the pandemic deter them. Some are using this time to adapt to the situation, grow and inspire their art form. 

“I didn’t have to split my time between the gallery and my art anymore … I can think about what kind of creation I want, what can I draw inspiration from,” said Johnston. “[Thinking about COVID-19], I started playing with some grey and black palettes and created a new style.”

Even public art spaces such as the Beaverbrook Art Gallery have made several changes to make the most out of this challenging time.

“We had some success [with] some online programming that we linked to our website. So we were kept engaged that way,” said Tom Smart, the director of the art gallery. 

This past year, the gallery has shifted focus onto renovations of the building itself while also sending out exhibitions to art galleries across the province to showcase the artwork. 

Smart said the gallery will use this time to undergo the construction of the Harrison McCain Pavilion as well as a number of other renovations within the building itself. There are also plans to integrate new programs and partnerships within the gallery.

“We really took advantage of the opportunity that was provided by the closure to improve the infrastructure that you see and the infrastructure that’s behind the scenes,” said Smart.