Juli Goetz Morser
For Vashon Center for the Arts
When Vashon Center for the Arts had to shutter its doors in March due to the coronavirus, the organization has found creative ways to re-open its doors — virtually, reaching out with a slate of online art exhibitions and performances.
The ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change is how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “resilience.” And how artists visually express that word is the theme of the Koch Gallery’s next online exhibit, “Heart of Resilience,” which opens Friday, June 5.
The arts centers’ original show slated for June and Pride Month was a photography exhibition requiring photographers to enter island homes of our LGBTQ community. But with social distancing put into place, that plan was no longer viable.
“We had to re-curate the June show,” said Lynann Politte, who is the gallery manager for VCA’s Koch Gallery. “Juggling the needs of the artists, the community and VCA, we came up with the idea of a fundraiser to support artists and Vashon nonprofits. The focus of the new show is resilience and what is at the ‘heart’ of resilience.”
Politte invited all artists to submit artwork — with one criterion: include a heart in some form and some size in the final piece. She suggested the artists think about resilience —what it means to them, what the key ingredients are, and how one cultivates and stays resilient during this uncertain time.
Politte said that for VCA, resilience includes helping Vashon.
“During this pandemic, collaboration and supporting each other is key,” she said. “We at VCA wanted to create an opportunity to support the community as a whole as well as the artists.”
Eighty percent of the proceeds from the sale of each work will be split between the creator of the work and a local nonprofit, to be designated by the buyer of the piece. The remaining 20 percent of the sale will go to VCA to cover the administrative costs of the exhibition.
“This show supports the artist by selling their work, the buyer who selects their preferred nonprofit to benefit from the sale, and the nonprofit who receives the proceeds,” Politte said.
Participating artists have met the challenge of recreating work within the theme in various ways.
For Seattle artist Steve Jensen, “resilience” is a helpful guide. The artist, whose work has been shown previously at VCA, submitted an oil painting from his “Voyager” series.
The series, he said, is about not knowing where a journey or voyage “will take us — we just know it exists. Our resilience will help us find a way to get there.”
“During quarantine, I had a choice,” he added. “Either I could be completely overwhelmed by all of the uncertainty, or I could go to my studio and make art. I chose the latter. Everyday. During this difficult and stressful time, the energy and love that comes from creating art helped to ease my fears.”
For Vashon artist Kristen Reitz-Green, resilience is about doing whatever you can with what you have.
“For artists, it is challenging to give cash to help others within this environment where 75 percent or more of our profits are gone, but what we can offer is our artistic talent and time, creating art using the supplies we already have,” she said.
“I think this is the perfect thing to do at this time,” Vashon artist and VCA board member Margo Tantau said. “Hearts are something we all can relate to. They are an ideal example of resilience, love, feeling, compassion, with many meanings for many people. I can’t wait to see how people are feeling right now through this heart work.”
Politte plans to hang the show in the gallery and create a “virtual tour” of the exhibition to be released for the First Friday opening. Throughout the month, she will be interviewing various exhibiting artists. If feasible, the gallery will be open — within safety protocols — in June.
“It will be visually powerful to see all the hearts in the gallery. The heart is such a great symbol of compassion and inclusiveness,” Politte said. “I’m always amazed by how artists manifest their art, even around something as simple as a heart.”