The week’s news that 22 million people nationwide are unemployed and small businesses are feeling the economic pinch, brings home the next question of the coronavirus pandemic: how do we generate income flow?
Here on Whidbey Island with many artists self-employed, the Whidbey Island Arts Council has assembled a number of good resources to help artists, including buying gift cards from our arts purveyors, along with paying artists to teach Zoom classes.
“People up and down the island are suffering and they are worried,” said Kay Parsons, president of the Whidbey Island Arts Council. “One of the things we’re doing right now is we are trying to keep our contract workers. People who aren’t employees, but receive payment from the council. Also we’re trying to come up with ways to expand ideas of online marketing and online promotion. We’re also working to keep our kids’ art classes going online through Zoom. That will allow us to pay artists to teach. The kids—we had our first test class last week. The kids actually get it. They’re a different generation. They understand video and I think it is easier for them.”
Melissa Koch, a multimedia artist, whose passion for the Earth and teaching young people, is in her element these days teaching Zoom classes. Working with the Arts Council and South Whidbey Parks and Recreation, Melissa focused last week on teaching art of the Haida Nation.
“It is going great,” Melissa said in a phone call April 16. “I am teaching two online classes. Everything is focused on nature. We did printmaking. Last week, mixed media. We focused on the Haida language, songs, culture, story-telling, history. Children made dream-catchers, button blankets. I want to teach new skill sets—working with their hands, how to take care of nature; we’re house-bound, we can’t buy material; how to upcycle. I’m creating grab and go art kits.”
Melissa said the grab and go kits are for those who register for the Parks and Recreation art class. She will contact parents regarding safe pick up of materials. The classes run Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Parents are invited to participate in the Zoom classes as well.
“Parents are busy; they could feel disconnected,” Melissa added. “This is a great way to bring our community together. Bring together parents’ inner child, which lightens things up and brings a sense of well-being. Being creative is really important.”
“Creativity feeds our soul,” said Kay Parsons last week. On her webpage, she writes: “Painting is my ongoing conversation with the world: listening, seeing, interpreting, translating. More accurately, painting is a conversation with my garden. My garden stands as a chapel to my belief in everything: life, death, dying, renewal, exuberance, sadness, acceptance and beauty. I am tied to the land.
“Melissa is so good,” Kay added. “We will run three classes with Melissa. Our next series is with Janet King on wet felting. Online classes with video and instructors are ideally limited to seven kids. In a regular classroom we’ve had 20.”
On the council’s webpage is a link to the island’s working artists. And there are a number of links that could provide a much-needed flow of money.
“Artists need to know that if they’ve done their paperwork, there are going to be programs to support them,” Kay added. “This is the time for artists to do their paperwork! Make sure you understand the parameters of the program. Understand how you can write to that. Understand the nature of your own business. Tailor each writeup. Pay attention. It is tedious. But bread has to be put on the table. All the galleries are taking a hit. A couple of the commercial galleries have applied for forgivable loans.”
Kay said to talk with Sue Taves, a sculptor and former publisher of Whidbey Life Magazine, who “has worked so hard for the arts community on this island.”
Sue and her sculptor colleague Lloyd Whannell recently purchased the Freeland Art Studios buildings.
“Oh, Lloyd and I are doing fine,” Sue wrote in an email this week. “It’s all brand new and really nothing to say at this point. Maybe when we know more about what we’re doing and going to do, it’ll be fodder for a story.
“I know a lot of artists are taking advantage of the time making art (that’s what I’m doing),” Sue added. “Thankfully I have a studio I can work in that isn’t shut down and I can work alone. Of course, there is tremendous uncertainty about making any kind of income from art sales right now and also in the near future. With everything closed the only options are online and understandably most folks are not in an art-buying frame of mind. Glad you’re doing a story for all our island artists!”
Kay said it is important to talk about the challenges we are facing these days and come together as a community. With their fundraising “flatlined,” she asks the community to make donations to the Whidbey Island Arts Council.