When the Hillary Whitaker Gallery closed its doors during the state-wide shutdown, the climate was one of fear, uncertainty and apprehension. COVID-19 seemed to strike with a sudden force and the aftermath unfolded in isolation.
What Whitaker didn’t expect was not only the resilience of the artists, but the community-wide desire to keep art a part of their lives.
“It's been really evident that art really does have a healing effect on people,” Whitaker said. “We also realized it was serving as a respite to a lot of people in this chaotic state (of the world).”
Although the shutdown period was different for many, interacting with art seemed to stay consistent. Some people were reevaluating their interior spaces, looking to surround themselves with art by hanging it directly their walls and others were simply finding comfort in looking at emerging work on social media and other digital formats.
“We just wanted to uplift in some sort of way and do what we could from afar,” Whitaker said. “We posted (content) a few times a week and we were getting a good response. Instead of coming in and seeing what we have there was virtual interest.”
When the Hillary Whitaker Gallery finally did open their doors after Phase I, they did so to a full collection of various work from artists creating during that time period.
“Some artists hit their studios full throttle,” Whitaker said. “We thought with the fear-laden climate with what was going on that maybe that would be projected in some of work but literally every single piece we hung was a new product of this COVID-19 downtime and instead of being emotional or brash they were all beautiful and happy. They were calming and joyful. They were all initiating hope.”
A stark contrast to the pandemic, the walls of the Hillary Whitaker Gallery were suddenly bright and inviting.
“It was a very rewarding to see how art does serve the purposes we so believe in,” Whitaker said. “It does more than just adorn walls. It has an intrinsic value.”