The creativity of artists has never ceased to amaze me, which is why I chose to pursue studies in art history and arts administration – so that I could support artists and help share their accomplishments with people.
In November 2019, I began my job as the Director/Curator of the StFX Art Gallery. Five months later, I found myself hunkered down in my basement home office, trying to figure out how to offer arts events in the context of COVID-19.
Arts institutions around the world had closed their doors in mid-late March 2020 to help slow the spread of the coronavirus and discourage large gatherings of people. Many supplemented the lack of physical access with digital resources, such as social-media feeds, 3-D gallery tours, curators’ and artists’ talks on video, online exhibitions and image banks of institutional collections. My daily work life changed dramatically. I began having digital face-to-face meetings via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or BlueJeans, with anywhere from 2 to 200 cultural workers across North America.
I joined the board of Antigonish Culture Alive (ACA), and we had a series of Zoom meetings, exploring how to offer the 11th annual Antigonight art event to support artists. This fall arts festival first took place in 2010 and has been offered every year thereafter. Artists set up their works around Antigonish, be they paintings, murals, performances, dance, music, theatre, and storytelling. Artistic Director Emma MacDonald and Director Assistant Happiness Bhoke John organized the 2020 Antigonight, offering fantastic series of both online and in-person art events for the first three weeks in September. I myself attended numerous virtual meetings with board members and Emma. Even while squatting in my basement, I became virtually acquainted with artistic vitality, talents, and offerings abundant in town and throughout surrounding regions.
I volunteered at various Antigonight in-person events, such as Kate Georgallas and Anna Syperek’s two-day Painting through the Distance happening in Chisholm Park. Watching and listening to people chat with Kate and Anna, I marveled at how intently the artists responded to questions while continuing to paint.
I tracked the growth of colour across their canvases, and I appreciated witnessing the progress, activity, dialogue, and excitement in-person. And so I committed to opening the StFX Art Gallery for in-person visitation.
For the 2020 fall term, the StFX Art Gallery has two exhibitions on display, a small-scale tapestry show called INTERFACE in 2002 Mulroney Hall and an art quilt exhibition, Colour with a ‘U’ in 103 Bloomfield Centre. Both shows required months of planning, organization, all while in COVID lockdown. It took me weeks to figure out how to allow visitors to book 30-minute appointments through the gallery’s website, but all this work has paid off.
Filled with colors, textures, and light, both spaces foster wonder and fascination. Both encourage visitors to leave the digital world behind and surround themselves with art. It is my hope that, like Antigonight, the StFX Art Gallery can continue to offer these experiences in the upcoming months and that it can continue to support artists in their various endeavors.
 I thank all the artists who contributed works, Colour exhibition coordinator Tracey Lawko, INTERFACE exhibition coordinators Jane Freear-Wyld and Murray Gibson, and, for installation help, Madeline Dow, Bruce Dow, and Regina Marzlin.