Camps start, Arts Council of Wilson adapts

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Visual arts camps started at the Edna Boykin Cultural Center in mid-June. Our organization is elated to have young ones creating inside of our facilities once again. Our camps are operating at a limited capacity and with enhanced procedures and optimized room layout as we work with all of our neighbors across the state to prioritize each other’s physical health and navigate into a new life living with COVID-19.

These new norms such as face coverings, social distancing and thinking before acting and touching have us all feeling a little awkward at first as we strive to make them routine and habitual.

Being able to exercise the creativity of our young population face covering-to-face covering is not one that we take for granted. We are incredibly thankful to be talking art bots, painting and listening to the imaginations and stories behind each of the artworks they create and much prefer the sounds of creation and additional procedures over an empty and dark cultural center.

There are so many things that we can’t do right now that we used to be able to. Concerts, performances, gallery openings, funky fun event fundraisers or even large meetings are just not possible for us right now.

I am sure you can imagine how hard this has been for us not to be able to celebrate the arts the way we have all come to know and love and how hard this has been on our various and diverse income streams. Like many of you out there, we are trying to focus on what we can do instead and embrace our silver linings during these trying times.

Some of our pivots have surprised us and worked out better than anticipated, such as moving our handmade gift shop online. Our gift shop features the work of local and regional artists in a variety of media such as painting, jewelry, assemblage and pottery.

With our visual arts series, there is nothing quite like seeing a work of art in person at an exhibition and getting to meet the face behind the work at a gallery opening. However, in lieu, we are seeing that our virtual exhibits are getting circulated and reaching new populations.

We have really seen our visual artist community show up to do great things in response to our current events. Many artists contributed pages to “Local Color,” a coloring book illustrating local landmarks in Wilson County for parents to share with their children at home.

Our diverse artist base united to respond to the rioting in the wake of George Floyd’s death by painting murals on the broken windows of our organization’s facilities inspiring hope, peace and unity. We are incredibly thankful to those who donated talent, supplies and funds to the creation of murals. We are humbled by the donations of artworks that have been donated to heARTworks to help raise funds for the Arts Council of Wilson during this crisis.

Additionally, performers have shared their talents on the Wil’t’son Limelight page as an alternative to performing at venues. This is a difficult time for artists and gig workers whose income has been affected by COVID-19, which makes this response more beautiful and heartfelt.

As restrictions loosen, but before they are gone completely, we are exploring ways that we can activate outdoor spaces with the performing arts as a safer alternative to performing indoors.

We are still planning those signature events and programs such as the Visual Arts Series, the Boykin Series and ACT! for Youth for fall and spring as we normally would with the understanding that we may have to pivot as we have for the past three months.

In addition to alternative and altered programming, our organization has also been taking this time to focus on the completion of our new Wilson Arts Center located at 204 Nash St. and preparing for the move. Our new roof was recently completed with more construction on the interior to begin soon. We cannot wait to share this optimal space for creators of all ages with the Wilson community and beyond.

For more information on camps or to donate to the organization, visit www.wilsonarts.com. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram @artscouncilofwilson to stay up to date on what we are up to and to follow the Wilson Arts Center renovation.

Cathy Hardison is executive director of the Arts Council of Wilson.