Firelands Association for the Visual Arts, an independent nonprofit nestled in the brick and foliage along South Main Street, opened for two days last weekend to present its first in-person exhibition since the start. of the pandemic. The exhibition, Oh be (alone), presented a collection of paintings and collages by artist Allison Hall in the South Gallery of the FAVA.
FAVA artist, writer and executive director Kathleen Jackson was instrumental in speeding up the gallery’s reopening, though ‘reopening’ might not be exactly the word she would use. During the pandemic, the FAVA strived to find new ways to fulfill its mission of increasing public engagement in the arts, by virtually presenting new exhibits and distributing art materials – ranging from jewelry tools to pottery towers – through a loan system.
“It’s more of a change than a reboot,” she said. “Right now we’re just trying to move again.”
According to Jackson, FAVA staff weren’t sure what the gallery opening would look like. Before the pandemic, gallery openings meant shrimp cocktails and mingling with performers between bites of Ritz and cheese deli meats, sparkling water champagne flute in hand. Although last weekend’s opening was not delivered with the same level of fanfare, the artist and clients expressed a lot of excitement.
Hall has been involved with the FAVA since before the pandemic. A graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art and originally from Ohio, Hall has a soft spot for FAVA.
“I love working at FAVA,” she said. “I teach at a handful of arts institutions and this is by far my favorite.”
Hall initially expected the exhibit to be virtual only; the decision to bring it to the gallery for an in-person visit was made just two weeks before the opening. This change struck a chord with Hall – this is his first in-person show in over a year.
“It feels good to have it on the walls,” Hall said. “And having other people experience art in person is exciting.”
the exhibition of the room, Oh be (alone), is the antithesis of the in-person experience Hall is currently enjoying, both in title and content. His works take into account the many dualities of isolated family life.
“This one is something I did just in the early forties and pandemic,” Hall said in reference to one of his pieces, a glued pillar erected in the center of the gallery space. . “It responded to the idea of being inside, of being quarantined, of being alone, of feeling alone, but also at the same time of being quarantined with a toddler, with your family, and how overstimulated there is. … Time alone hardly ever came unless I did. Making art was one of the only ways for me to escape to be alone. “
“It’s really fun to hear Allison’s personal perspective and see her creations,” said Chloe Lai, FAVA gallery professor and third-year college student. She worked in FAVA art classrooms before the pandemic and is excited about the organization’s imminent return to teaching camps and in-person classes.
Jackson echoes this sense of necessity in maintaining artistic practices born out of pandemic disarray.
“I want to encourage people to continue to embrace the creativity they found during the pandemic,” she said. “I think the arts can help us change direction and improve our lives. I think creation is such an important part of our humanity.
Beyond his job to keep the FAVA thriving, Jackson has many plans to keep the space safe and get back to programming with some safe changes for COVID. The building already has a new air filtration system to maintain airflow, and the FAVA is planning a summer camp for children in August, with shorter days and fewer students to allow for distancing social.
“We will follow CDC guidelines on security protocols,” she said. “We ask unvaccinated people over two years old to wear masks on the property. … We have safety in mind, but are happy to reopen in person, especially for classes.
Although the exhibition was only opened in person on the 17th and 18th, Hall’s collection can be viewed online at the The FAVA website. The FAVA Biennial Jury Photography Exhibition opens August 14, and FAVA offers a host of workshops, camps and photo walks throughout August.