VCA art shifts from physical to digital
By Mari Kanagy, Publishing Editor
With the world confined to their homes, and Vashon as no exception, island artists and gallarists are working to bring art out of lockdown. The Vashon Center for the Arts (VCA) and has set up online systems and services to support artists by sharing their art and aiding funds.
The VCA gallery first closed its doors to the public in early March, slightly before other local businesses. The March exhibits — Women’s Wisdom Project, 29th Street Women, and Dirty Laundry and Other Women’s Work, all in honor of Women’s History Month — are still on display in the building. Upon the VCA building’s closure, the next step for the gallery was obvious.
“It was a very simple decision that we had to go online to maintain communication,” VCA gallery director Lynann Politte said. “We needed to stay in communication to keep the art out, and keep it relevant, and keep it in people’s view.”
Along with digitally cataloging March’s exhibit onto the VCA website, Politte uploaded images from April’s exhibit, The Layers of Water, at the start of this month.
The VCA website’s revamp included the addition of several other features as well. Politte created an online store by setting up a purchasing platform called Artpal and updated pictures and info about the art and artists. She also set up a VCA gallery Instagram account, and has encouraged artists to send in videos about themselves and their art to use on the VCA TV channel.
“We want people to get to know the art, the artist, and engage in conversation,” Politte said. Those are the three areas that I want the gallery channel to do.”
The closure of the physical gallery has made updating the website a priority, though it has been something the Politte intended to do all along.
“It’s really been an opportunity to go into the direction we wanted to go, in addition to the physical gallery, to have an online gallery and more of a social presence because we feel like we can have a better outreach,” Politte said.
One of the most impactful updates to the website is the inclusion of financial resources for artists who may be in need of relief during these times.
“A lot of artists, in a very short amount of time, lost the majority of their income,” Politte said.
Local artist and Vashon Island Visual Arts president Brian Fisher described the “awful” economic impact of the virus — the last month of his three month art show was cancelled, as was VIVA’s May studio tour. Through the hardships, however, he praised the island community for its persistent encouragement.
“It has always been my experience that this is a very supportive community that we live in, [with] both our patrons and the artists supporting each other,” Fisher said. “So that’s not unusual, but I think it’s more obvious right now.”
Fisher is working with Politte to show his art series in the online gallery in June. The series of etchings and linocuts — based partially on his family and life — is a story about same sex relationships, told through the perspective of two puppets.
Throughout the lockdown, Fisher is also working to facilitate the VIVA scholarships awarded to high school seniors through the scholarship notebook awards night. VIVA gives out scholarships to graduates interested in pursuing visual arts in their future, and Fisher hopes to continue this financial assistance despite the current societal challenges.
“That’s one of the reasons I got excited about doing what I do for the organization because I want to encourage the next generation of artists to think visually,” Fisher said. “It is what my life’s work has been guided by so I want to encourage that in others.”