Covid-19 Coronavirus Lockdown!

Stopped in our tracks and not sure I know how to proceed!  Feeling conflicted as to the priorities and not quite knowing where to put any energy!  Business plans have been halted mid-flow, with preparations for an exhibition at the Bargehouse, Oxo Wharf in London abruptly curtailed.  So sad as I was looking forward to this one, based on colour and an opportunity for Bryan B. Kelly to show his beautiful colourful work.  His paintings show an exuberance for life, a surreal, but magical flight of fancy with enough reality for an expectation his world will be revealed, hiding somewhere in an idyllic countryside.  Permission to dream of a place remembered from childhood or projected to the future and just the anecdote to the lockdown malaise.

Bryan B. Kelly Art

I chose to try out a webinar The Pre-Raphaelites, part of the Virtual Museum Crawl provided by Newark Museum of Art in New Jersey USA. This was a collaboration with the Birmingham Museum Trust, here in the UK and consisted of a lecture by Victoria Osbourne, Fine Art Curator at Birmingham. The lecture took us on a virtual tour of key works in the Pre-Raphaelite collection, drawing on her knowledge of the artists and suggesting a close inspection of the work, which revealed a wealth of history, ideas and artist technique. The lecture was relaxed and informative, with Victoria visible in the corner of the screen. It was clear that she was relying on transatlantic colleague, Darryl Dwayne, in Newark, to progress the image presentation, but that provided some normalisation of the whole event. I was a little disconcerted not seeing anyone else attending the event, no list of names even. Was I the only person taking part? Thankfully this was answered by the call for questions at the end and it became obvious that at least a handful of others had been engaged in the same experience as me. On the whole it was an hour well spent and I shall be watching out for any future events. The exhibition Victorian Radicals by the Birmingham Museum and the American Federation of Arts, is currently touring America, Covid-19 allowing, and was recently celebrated by winning an award for Best Modern or Impressionism (1840 to WWll) Exhibition worldwide at the Global Fine Art Awards.

Birmingham Museums
Newark Museum of Art
American Federation of Arts Tour of America: dates
Global Fine Art Awards

How to use all this time?  So many jobs to do: practical around the office and home; cerebral what is the future; edit all those photos; sort out the computer files…the last one took precedence.  Foolishly deleting half the documents on the Mac in error I then embarked on the trail of retrieving them all.  It is amazing how random the recovery software selection was, no rhyme or reason to those that were found or lost for ever.  How do you find a file, if you don’t know it’s lost?  I suspect missing documents will be looming for quite a few months!  Lesson learned – back up, back up back up!

One of the serendipitous consequences of recovering folders is finding things that stir the memories.  Strangely, in messaging a colleague, Prof. Mike Tooby, I’ve not seen for months, it sparked a search for documents and evidence of a project we both worked on.  A Research Excellence Framework submission due soon precipitated the need for evidence to support the project Journeys With “The Waste Land” a collaboration in community curating with Turner Contemporary, the Mead Gallery and the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, based on artworks to augment and inform the poem “The Waste Land” by T. S. Eliot.

What a joy this exhibition proved to be, indeed the whole experience.  The process was documented with a dedicated blog, and choosing and organising the artworks was a brilliant experience working with people from all disciplines and areas.  Organising the events that surrounded the exhibition at the Herbert and Coventry Cathedral was a privilege, especially the opening event of a Performed Reading of the poem by Luke Beard and Imogen Parker.  This was indeed a triumph.  Searching through the computer files and photos was an interesting exercise, unearthing the process of meetings, rehearsals, lists of works subsequently rejected for various reasons, and the correspondence between artists and members of the curating team brought ideas and memories flooding back.  Journeys With “The Waste Land” blog is still available here.

Journeys With “The Waste Land” blog

An invitation dropped into my inbox via LinkedIn asking if I would be prepared to be interviewed by a Warwick University student about my experiences of university life for a Then and Now project. This appears to be part of an online exhibition celebrating the new Arts Faculty building at the university so it will be interesting to see how this materialises, as not much information was available except that the launch event will be 11th June 2020, so watch this space. I am intrigued as to the reception of art exhibitions online, some are successful, but the two dimensional image on a screen does not have the same impact as experiencing art first hand. However with coronavirus limiting our first-hand experience this may at least keep interest alive. My interview with Chris Hofmann was interesting as I was unsure of the value of my personal experiences for the project, or that of my attitude to coronavirus, but as ever talking about oneself reveals more than the answer to the question. The whole interview was video recorded which put another aspect of consideration to our business communication in the future. If nothing else it reinvigorated my desire to pass on the joy that art can bring and its importance in expressing feelings and emotions at times like this. How often have I wanted to engage the students in the wealth of art the university has, and I can’t wait to return to it. Frustrating, as the major part of my role at the Warwick Arts Centre is meeting and dealing directly with people. I am smiley front-of-house Karen!

Meeting the Arts Centre work team on Teams instead of in person was interesting too!  Trying to negotiate 45 people in a meeting where the camera and microphones were somewhat compromised gave way to a voyeuristic watching and eavesdropping from the sidelines, even more weird when as everyone signed off they suddenly appeared waving goodbye, since when did that become meeting etiquette?  Furloughing, another new phrase to conjure with, the implications being no work to be done, no emails to send or reply to, but an obligation to ensure the workforce remains well, confident and happy.  WhatsApp groups and non-work Teams meetings to keep us positive, without the work link it can be difficult to talk about anything other than the pandemic, the garden and what delicious baking we’ve done.  To be honest all problems are eased with cake, so Coconut and Lime Drizzle Loaf anyone?

Coconut and Lime Drizzle Cake


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