As the novel coronavirus pandemic continues, many people have found comfort in art and music. Technology allows access to musical performances from all corners of the world, and many museums and galleries have online exhibitions. But art and music also are essential for the creators who then share their work to bring joy to others. How have the COVID-19 constraints affected these creators?
Four Longmont and Boulder County artists have found different ways to weather the COVID storm. As Cindi Yaklich said when she described her still life of lemons: “I guess you have to make lemonade.”
Joy Gittings is a full-time artist, specializing in watercolors who also produces murals in latex and acrylics. She has a gallery on Main Street and recently set up a display tent in front of the building after the city closed downtown travel lanes to allow for expanded outdoor sales, dining and display space . However, the fairs and other events that contribute to her income have been canceled, as have the teaching opportunities on which she also relies.
The Longmont Downtown Development Authority and the Downtown Longmont Creative District are trying to help Gittings and other artists through efforts such as the expanded Main Street space and enlisting their talents for murals and to decorate the downtown barriers but sales continue to be slow. She took her mind off her troubles by composing a fable that had been forming in her mind for a while and creating a watercolor to accompany each chapter. It’s still a work in progress.
Gittings describes how full-time artists always have to “hustle and persevere” to make a living, and at this time it is even more true. She also appreciates the similar situation of others hurt by the cancellation of events.
“We are all interconnected to each other and everything around us, and we will do what we humans do best and get industrious and pull through this together,” she said.
Amanda Maldonado is a professional artist, who also works full time as a graphic designer. Her media of choice are pen and ink, as well as watercolor She specializes in Colorado animals, although she also loves plein air painting of landscapes and other outdoor subjects. Her aim is to make her art accessible to the community and she creates prints and postcards sold at retail stores. When stores and the coffee shops and breweries where she also displayed her art closed, Maldonado turned to the online market, with the Etsy website being her main source of sales.
Like Gittings, Maldonado is working with the LDDA and the Firehouse Art Center to create opportunities for herself and other artists. She helped organize the #Strongmont Virtual ArtWalk that has been taking place one weekend a month since June. The next and final event on Aug. 22 will offer an opportunity for art-lovers to virtually view local artists working on projects in their studios. Connecting with other people and the community has been uppermost in Maldonado ’s mind and she is working hard to do so. While the pandemic has affected her just like everyone else, she has learned to be optimistic about the future and keeps a “happy thoughts journal” to remind her of the good in life.
Yaklich also works as a graphic designer, but now only part-time, after deciding to become a full-time professional artist three years ago. Yaklich shows in a gallery and also participates in art fairs and open studio events. She specializes in oil and pencil drawing, originally only in still life, but lately she has begun more study of the human figure. Her goal is to focus on what she describes as “situational still lifes” such as the corner of a room or people sitting at a bar.
At first, the COVID restrictions seemed to sap her creative energy, and she would spend her time reworking her paintings to make them “perfect.” But the energy returned, and she even sold her lemon (lemonade) painting right away. Without the pressure to prepare for shows or fairs, she is being more experimental and trying some online classes. While Yaklich’s creative life has regenerated, she still has questions about her practical situation, particularly as it relates to the studio she began leasing late last year. The plan was not only to have a studio away from home, but also to use the space as a gallery to show (and sell) her work.
She wonders whether she will be able to attend fairs and make sales to earn the income required to cover the rent. And will she be able to attend the life drawing classes she needs to further her situational still life goal? Like everyone else, her personal life has been affected by the virus. Although she is used to the solitary life of an artist, she misses that family contact that so often involves traveling.
She hasn’t “quite made lemonade out of the lemons. Just yet.”
David Hartman differs from the other artists in that he also considers himself as a musician and describes himself as having “done theater, Halloween gore, sugar skulls, full-body and more.” But most of all he loves face painting. His additional skills and passions include colored pencil work, beaded sculptures, wildlife photography and entomology. On the musical front, he is a guitarist and instructor. He promotes the therapeutic benefits of art and became a director of both ArtWalk and the Firehouse Art Center. He also belongs to the Left Hand Artist Group, which was where he realized he was “very good at art.”
With the onset of COVID-19, Hartman ’s face-painting income ceased, so he is trying to share his other art projects online, despite his “limited” computer skills. And his participation in musical events also is now limited, even with mask wearing and social distancing. He has had only two musical gigs so far this year and has lost all the guitar students he had, except for one (his wife Chrissy). But Hartman “will always do art” and, despite being in his 60s, an age group that can be more vulnerable to the virus, his Christian faith and relationship with Chrissy is pulling him through.