News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Artists adapt during pandemic

Because of the coronavirus pandemic and the effects it has had on the economy, artists have had to adapt. Many projects have been canceled or put on hold. Artists are adapting to shutdowns by swapping their physical art spaces for virtual ones.

Sisters Art Association (SAA) artists, some who participated in the 2020 Artist Studio Tour last weekend, have found creative ways to cope amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Bedouin and Good Day Café owner Harmony Thomas said, “When I joined the SAA board last fall, I was asked to work on membership. After a couple of months of meetings and getting a sense of where I could help, I started to offer my guidance with social media with individual members. I have met with many members, and during COVID-19 we have managed to safely meet, and I have done what I could to continue to assist them.”

To assist the artists who felt overwhelmed by the changing times, Thomas helped with the necessary tools that made it easier to run an art business online.

Local glass artist and SAA event co-chair Mel Archer noted, “Social media is Harmony’s realm, and I know she has spent many hours tutoring our artists on social media. From setting up accounts to how to use it to promote their work and how-to hashtag the studio tour so our contacts beget more contacts.”

Thomas noted, “I value the artists in this community and want to help where I can. Social media platforms are often overwhelming. We would work on what works for them: Facebook pages, Instagram, going over what hashtags mean and do for Instagram. I hope to continue to help advocate and assist.”

Thomas has been giving each artist that has needed help an hour or two of listening to gain an understanding of where they are at in their lives as an artist and what their needs are.

“The SAA has relied heavily on artists promoting themselves and the tour through their own social media,” said SAA co-founder Helen Schmidling. “Harmony spent dozens of sessions with artists getting them up to speed on Facebook and Instagram — artists who had absolutely no social media experience.”

The 2020 Artist Studio Tour, sponsored by SAA, was nine months in planning. And due to COVID-19, the tour was moved from June to the last weekend in September.

Archer said, “Due to COVID-19, we asked for and received the approval of the Deschutes County COVID-19 Task Force. Our Artist Studio Tour was a very dispersed event. Each studio was required to have the same safety procedures in place as have now become the standard. The artists enforced social distancing and other procedures.”

The SAA provided to each artist: hand sanitizer, disposable masks, COVID-19 signage, and sign-in sheets. Masks were required for all visitors. Whether traveling by car, bike, or on foot, people arrived in small groups throughout the day.

The 4th Annual Sisters Arts Association Studio Tour had 36 artists in 26 locations, ranging from wood sculptor J. Chester Armstrong’s studio west of Sisters, to Danae Bennett Miller, bronze sculptor located west of Tumalo, to buckeroo artist Len Babb, off Lower Bridge Road west of Terrebonne. There were 33 more artists located in between these points.


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