Finding an adequate space to host the Emeryville Celebration of the Arts has generally been the biggest challenge for the annual event now in its 34th year. There have been years when it’s come down to the wire locking up a space within the city as commercial vacancy rates have declined.
This year, the challenge was one nobody could have foreseen.
“The biggest challenge we faced this year was how to present the annual exhibition while keeping our community safe,” noted Exhibition Coordinator Sharon Wilchar who has been involved with the event since its inception. “We had to figure out how to create a community celebration, honor our vibrant arts community, and engage audience in the time of Covid.”
Coordinating the event was challenging enough. Fielding submissions, jurying, curating … all had to be done online. “Although I truly missed the studio visits as well as the challenges of installing the exhibition, I was happy to see many familiar artists who submitted digitally as well as new faces,” said Kathleen Hanna, exhibition curator and juror.
And as the pandemic continued into the summer months, it became unclear if the county would allow reopening of indoor galleries in time. San Francisco museums just recently allowed reopening of indoor museums including SFMOMA but Alameda County has not updated their shelter order as of yet.
Canceling the event entirely was considered but Wilchar and others pushed back. “Something I have heard from many, from curator and jurors to artists to volunteers to guests, is how much they are all missing the opportunity we provide each year for our creative community to ‘connect’ in real time.”
Organizers made the tough call to make the event virtual. “Over the years we’ve become pretty adept at creating a new gallery space in all kinds of locations, but creating a dynamic and engaging exhibition space online was something new,” Wilchar added. “We found this presented new challenges but also new opportunities.”
City of Emeryville Economic Development and Housing Manager Chad Smalley stepped in to connect the planning team with a group of tech-savvy volunteers with U.S. Digital Response. This entity was formed to help cities and organizations across the country utilize the internet and technology to bring their product and mission to their audiences in new ways.
Organizers have added a “Meet the Artist” component where visitors can find out more about the contributing artists and their processes on their website. There will also be artist interviews, photos, and videos as well as online workshops and demonstrations. For the first time, there will be a People’s Choice Award so website visitors can have a say in their favorite artwork. A winner will be announced on November 1 when the show closes “We will continue to add content to the website throughout the run of the exhibit,” Wilchar explained.
The event will be promoted on the city’s light fixtures with vinyl banners featuring a curated selection of some of this year’s artwork images. There will be a banner art map posted on the exhibition website that can be downloaded and printed so that residents can engage with the arts as the stroll around the city.
2020 Emeryville Mayor Christian Patz will be the host for the the Opening Night Zoom Party on Friday, October 2nd. Former Poet Laureate Sarah Kobrinsky will continue her successful poetry workshop and poetry readings.
Read the full press release on emeryarts.org