Organizers of the annual two-day Lincolnshire Art Walk held this past weekend offered visual artists impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the current economic recession some much-needed encouragement in difficult times.
“The artists are so thankful,” said Lindsey Dickenson, an organizer for the event held Saturday and Sunday in Lincolnshire. “They were really struggling.”
Several significant changes had to be made this year to create social distance, in an effort to help try to keep participants and browsers safe amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
Attendees and artists selling their work were all required to wear face masks and only one customer or group of customers was permitted to enter each artist’s booth at a time. Sanitizing stations were also present, and those attending were required to pre-register and make a reservation.
Typically, the show hosts 125 artists of various media, including photography, painting, fiber arts, hand-made jewelry and sculpture, from all over the country. However, this year, only 25 artists were permitted to participate in the show, and the number of people attending was also limited to keep crowds under control.
“The number one goal is to keep the public and the artists safe,” Dickenson said.
Daniel Hedblom of Rochester, Minnesota, creates flame-painted copper designs that can be hung on walls. He uses a torch to give the design different colors and uses a grinding technique to create shapes, lines and other indentations. Much of his work, he said, is inspired by landscapes from Lake Superior in his home state as well as national parks.
Hedblom usually showcases his pieces year round at art shows, but this year the number of shows has been limited due to the pandemic.
“This is the first show since everything stopped,” he said. “It felt like years since I’ve done a show.”
Hedblom said that he was able to sell wholesale to some art galleries, which helped bring in some income.
“This is my livelihood,” he explained. “This isn’t my hobby.”
Sam Seigel of AJ’s Copper Garden and Metal Art Gallery was another artist at the Art Walk who works with copper, but in a different way. The Iowa resident creates home and garden metal ornaments inspired by flowers and garden critters such as ladybugs, butterflies, bees and dragonflies.
Seigel uses a rubber mallet to hammer the copper to form different shapes and then uses car paint to color the sculptures, giving them a shiny and glossy effect.
Siegel said the gallery has had to change its day-to-day operations a little due to the pandemic, but business is still going.
“We’re not doing too bad,” he said. “No matter how bad things get, people are always gonna wanna buy stuff that makes them happy.”
Long Grove-based artist Carla Bank tried to keep a positive attitude during the stay-at-home period, she said, calling it “a great time for creating” new work. Bank was also able to do more online sales when business slowed down a bit this year, she said.
Originally from Mexico, Bank’s acrylic paintings and prints feature bright colors and bold patterns. She says the inspiration for the designs come from her Mexican culture in which color is used a lot.
“I consider myself a colorist. I love to place colors in a way that they’re gonna be uplifting and everything is happy,” she said. “I want you to see my work and feel happy.”
Schaumburg fashion Designer Jennifer Akese-Burney was also able to use her stay-home time to come up with new ideas and ways to adjust her business to the current situation.
“You recreate yourself. You pivot,” she said.
The Ghana native designs clothing inspired by traditional African prints, patterns, and styles. Miss World 2014 wore one of Akese-Burney’s gowns.
When the pandemic first hit and more people were staying home, the demand for clothing became less, Akese-Burney said.
“The first two and half to three months, I would not have one sale of outfit. Everybody was asking for masks,” she said.
At that time, Akese-Burney decided to turn her attention from creating high-end fashion to focus on sewing face masks using African prints and fabrics.
“The first time I posted a picture of it, it went bananas,” she said referring to her first sewn mask. “Everybody was like ‘make one for me’, so I had to actually stop my normal inventory.”
She was able to sell over 2,000 masks and one of them was even featured in a recent issue of “O, The Oprah Magazine.”
Many of the artists at the weekend event said they were grateful for the exposure and the response from the public at a time when making sales and continuing to operate a business is tough.
“This is making us so happy, because with these shows, we feel hope,” said Bank.
Kulsoom Khan is a freelancer.