Crafting under COVID-19: How mid-Michigan artists and Art Reach are adapting to the pandemic
With the state shutdown due to COVID-19, storefronts like Art Reach of mid-Michigan were negatively affected. Fortunately, Art Reach is trying its best to maintain art culture even during this pandemic.
The Art Reach center in downtown Mount Pleasant is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to keep the arts alive in the community by teaching art classes, hosting galleries and selling art from mid-Michigan artists. These local artists were also affected by the state shutdown. Some used their downtime at home to focus on their art work, others lost profit due to their inability to display their pieces.
Amy Powell, executive director of Art Reach, said the pandemic affected the organization's revenue and their connection to the community, but the center is still trying to find ways to keep art alive. Closing at the beginning of the pandemic, staff members would post quick craft videos on Facebook every day when the state was on lockdown.
Since opening back up in June, free programs started up again, like Art Walk Central, a juried art competition in Mount Pleasant. For this event, the Mount Pleasant area becomes an art gallery while judges and the people in the community vote for the best pieces.
The center also utilized the section of Broadway Street that was closed off for some of their large events, making sure people wore masks and stayed six feet apart.
However, Art Reach had to cancel bigger events like Paint The Intersection on Broadway Street and University Avenue, and Broadway and Franklin streets. This event usually brings in about 300 to 400 people throughout the community. Powell said the Art Reach staff could not figure out a safe way to keep this event in this year’s calendar.
Some of the organization's art classes were canceled because teachers simply did not feel comfortable running their classes due to possible COVID-19 exposure. Others who still want to teach classes do so at limited capacity.
Julie Tyslicky is a local mid-Michigan artist and teacher at the Art Reach center. When the shutdown first started, her art suffered and she stopped creating her drawings. She did not want her uneasiness and worry to affect her art.
“It was hard to sit down and draw anything,” Tyslicky said. “I did not want whatever I was feeling to come out into my work.”
Because of this pause, Tyslicky lost revenue. She also stopped teaching art classes which she said she loves to do. If the pandemic was not happening right now, she would be working on more pieces and teaching classes at Art Reach.
Rebecca Hamilton, another artist in the Mount Pleasant area, said she felt uneasy and worried when the shutdown began, not knowing what would happen next. However, the shutdown allowed more time for her to create art since she was at home more.
Hamilton focuses on inspirational pieces, using supplies like watercolor and acrylic paints, Bible pages and hymnal paper. Sales were not a major concern because her main focus is to spread awareness and inspire people. She continues to spread her art by posting her pieces online.
“I know that COVID-19 affected a lot of people in the mental health area. Mental Health awareness is on the rise because of everything that is going on,” Hamilton said. “My main focus is to bring awareness of mental health issues through my art.”
Hamilton is working on a collection of pieces right now that are based on raising mental health awareness. The series is called "Carry On With Hope".