Credit: Wong Wares LLC Facebook Page.

Good news: Stories of innovation in the local arts scene

The impact of COVID-19 has been felt across every facet of our lives, and the local arts scene is no different. Canceled events and performances, gallery and venue closures, and loss of income opportunities are…

The impact of COVID-19 has been felt across every facet of our lives, and the local arts scene is no different. Canceled events and performances, gallery and venue closures, and loss of income opportunities are just a few of the challenges facing the local creative sector. Find ways to help here.

That said, here are a few stories of local artists at work – envisioning new ways of doing business, seeking new connection points with audiences, finding ways to cope and stay positive through art, and generally keeping art alive in the time of COVID-19.

Mark Wong, Wong Wares
Wong’s medium is clay, which makes social distancing a tough thing to ask of him.

“My lessons involve literally grabbing people’s hands and pushing them into clay,” he says. “I wanted to make sure there was a way people could stay engaged with clay without my presence.”

So, Wong took his show on the road. For $100, he will deliver a work board and 25 pounds of clay for you to work with. Craft what you want, then he picks it up, fires it, and returns it to you.

“There’s this idea of artists in the ivory tower. But when you get into it, it’s about collaboration, working with galleries and customers to see what they want,” Wong says. “Human interaction is a lot saner. The ivory tower lends itself to hermits stuck in a forest, and I don’t want to be that hermit.”

Originally part of the Military Arts Connection program, Wong has now expanded his drive-by pottery to the community at large. He’s also created a series of instructional videos and lessons like this one for aspiring sculptors to check out.

The new approach allows Wong to still get out and about, as well as keeping an income stream going.

“It’s a win-win,” he says. “I get to keep going, and other people get too keep going, too.”

Want to get your hands dirty? Check out the Wong Wares LLC Facebook page for more details.

Jon Sargent, Lonely Hope at the Manitou Art Center
In A Charlie Brown Valentine, Charlie Brown asks Lucy if she can cure loneliness. “For a nickel, I can cure anything!” Lucy responds.

Sargent retells that story, then asks “Is it something that can be cured? Or is it something that needs to be understood and talked about?”

A few years ago, Sargent solicited responses from all over the country, asking respondents to share their experiences with loneliness and the positive ways they dealt with it. This turned into a yearlong blog, with one response highlighted every week.

“When I had an opportunity for a solo show at the MAC, I wanted to do something different,” Sargent says. “So I went through the writings again, selected a few, and did a painting for each that is reflective of what they’d written.

“Obviously it takes on a whole new meaning now with what’s going on.”

He ended up with 18 painting-writing pairings for the show that opened March 6. These pairings of Lonely Hope showcase the stories in a new way, and have allowed opportunities for further conversations about loss, grief, compassion, and what loneliness means for different people, Sargent says. Importantly, the writings also give solutions to loneliness.

“There are so many situations in [Lonely Hope], there’s probably going to be something that you’re going to connect with,” Sargent says. “Loneliness is a universal human experience. It only becomes a problem if you get stuck.”

Sargent’s art for “healing harmony,” one of the pieces in his “Lonely Hope” show at the Manitou Art Center. Credit: Jon Sargent.

Sargent hopes the show illustrates the amazing things humans can do in the face of adversity, enabling viewers to see some of their own experiences reflected in the writing and art.

“Some of the writing is difficult to read, it’s gut-wrenching,” he says. “But they have that hope aspect as well: ‘This is what I’m doing about it.'”

Sargent says finding ways to reach out to those around you — family, friends, neighbors — can be one of the best ways to connect, asking yourself what you can do for someone else.

“It’s empowering, even if you’re struggling yourself. It helps you realize that while you may not be able to control what’s happening, you’re in total control of your response to it.”

Explore all 18 pieces of Lonely Hope here.


Originally written by Jonathan Toman of the Cultural Office and published in the Colorado Springs Independent Abstractions section on April 20, 2020.