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Pandemic spurs creativity: Mid-valley artists producing more, applying new techniques
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Pandemic spurs creativity: Mid-valley artists producing more, applying new techniques

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Local artists have been more productive during the pandemic, as well as expanding their horizons by learning and applying new techniques or trying new styles, said representatives of nonprofit art collectives in Corvallis, Albany and Lebanon.

And that makes this spring a great time to visit a mid-Willamette Valley art gallery, they said.

“If you come in now, you’re going to see a lot of new stuff, experimental stuff,” said Lori Garcy of Brownsville, president of Gallery Calapooia, 221 First Ave. S.W. in downtown Albany.

California is preparing to allow fans back in sports stadiums and permit guests at Disneyland as early as April 1.The state updated its plans Friday to allow reduced capacity outdoor events at stadiums, ballparks and theme parks. It's still limiting attendance only to California residents. And counties will have to set attendance limits based on their rates of COVID-19 infections and vaccinations. Out of California's five major league baseball teams, only the San Francisco Giants so far has the go-head to admit more than 100 fans. That's because San Francisco is in the red, or second-worst tier, for Coronavirus outcomes. That's enough to allow up to 20 percent of stadium attendance - and also sell hot dogs and beer.But counties that are home to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels, Oakland A's and San Diego Padres are still in the purple tier - the worst - and will need improved outcomes in order to admit thousands of spectators. Dodgers' president Stan Kasten said he's hopeful the team can "safely host fans to start the season."Also waiting for a potential April 1 opening if conditions continue to improve is Disneyland in Orange County. But the Great America Theme Park near San Francisco is set to open. The timing of re-openings also depend on when the state can administer an additional 400,000 vaccines to low-income areas, which will trigger the relaxing of more restrictions.And Gov. Gavin Newsom is hopeful that will happen soon, saying next week will see more and more counties having flexible restrictions."As of today, we're tracking an additional dozen, 12 counties, that likely, again, we likely anticipate they'll be moving to less restrictive tiers in another week."

Garcy, a jewelry maker, said that the pandemic, with social distancing regulations and safety measures, has meant that artists have been relatively isolated and stuck at home more than usual.

“It’s giving them time to work in the studio. … We wish that we weren’t in this sort of situation, but it has produced some wonderful art,” added Garcy, who also is a board member for the Brownsville Arts Center, 255 N. Main St.

Beatrice Rubenfeld of Nashville, president of Art in the Valley Gallery in downtown Corvallis, 202 S.W. Second St., said it was only natural for artists to create art when they have a plethora of spare time.

“When there’s nothing else to do, what else are you going to do? You’re going to paint,” said Rubenfeld, herself a painter.

Sometimes, the pandemic has resulted in a change of focus.

Mark Nelson, a North Albany painter who is a member of Art in the Valley, said he knew of another artist who just stayed at home creating artwork centered on different plant life in his yard.

A whimsical new exhibit that recently opened at Gallery Calapooia, which focuses on “Alice in Wonderland” also was inspired by the pandemic, said painter Anna Harris.

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“I wanted to escape reality, because last year was so hard,” said Harris, a special education assistant for Greater Albany Public Schools.

She had recently reread the classic children’s book and enjoyed exploring the characters in her paintings for the exhibit, all of which were done during the pandemic, with some being completed just in the last few months.

Ceramic artist Shannon Ross also created artwork for Gallery Calapooia’s current show, “Meet me in Wonderland,” which is up through March 27.

Garcy said some artists have been taking online classes to try new things during the pandemic – and fight boredom.

Steve Rice, president of the Linn County Arts Guild, 605 S. Main St. in downtown Lebanon, said that there’s a natural desire for artists to try to experiment, but perhaps that’s been amplified during the pandemic.

He’s a woodworker who started creating a Japanese puzzle box for the first time.

“It’s very exacting. It requires very precise measurements. It’s been fun. I’m learning something new. I’m always up for that,” Rice said. “You have to keep expanding, or else you die.”

Rice said that sales have generally been slow for the Linn County Arts Guild, with the exception of the holidays, where people wanted to keep money in the community and to buy handcrafted gifts.

Garcy and Rubenfeld said that business at their collectives has returned much to normal, and that visual art sales didn’t suffer much, despite openings and such being placed on hold for the time being.

“We’re so pleased with the way the community has come back and supported us,” Garcy said.

Rubenfeld said that people need art, and that’s especially so during the pandemic.

“All these people had to close down and go home and stay alone in their houses and they’re looking at their bare walls, and they say, ‘I need a piece of nice art,’” she added.

Kyle Odegard can be contacted at 541-812-6077 or kyle.odegard@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter via @KyleOdegard.

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