Martha Street, COVID-style

Annual member show and sale goes digital

A print by Alice Crawford, project co-ordinator at Manitoba Cultural Society of the Deaf and member of Martha Street Studio

Like many arts organizations, Martha Street Studio has had to adapt to this new pandemic world. Their annual member show and gallery has changed to include an online format and in-person gallery with safety protocols.

The studio has also reduced their class sizes to allow for social distancing and moved their artist talks online. With the limited size, classes have filled up very quickly. The annual show and sale have also been reaching a wider audience online.

The gallery space will still feature some of the art for sale. However, only four pieces will be hung in the gallery, instead of the usual 30 to 50, for two weeks at a time. 

“The exhibition has a greater longevity for the participants,” executive director Jamie Wright says. “Those two weeks have a bit more individual time for each piece.” Featured pieces will also be rotated online. 

“It is a nicer, more prominent exhibition, with the potential of a wider audience to see the work and be able to purchase the work. That continual engagement in changing it every two weeks keeps it fresh, even online.”

Alice Crawford, project co-ordinator at Manitoba Cultural Society of the Deaf and member of Martha Street Studio will have pieces featured in the show and sale. A member of the studio for over a decade, her work has also been featured in gallery shows at Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba. Crawford uses typography to creatively demonstrate how she hears.

“I process differently. I hear little pieces here and there. I put them together based on the context of the conversation and little bits of words (I hear). Everything is all jumbled up,” Crawford says.  

“In my art, you see the image, and then you realize it is full of letters, and the letters have words in them.” Her piece in the sale is made with metal type and spells “cheap,” although it might be difficult to see. 

While incorporating a digital gallery has been important, inviting people into the space to see the work has also been beneficial. 

“Something we’ve heard from our audiences is that they are excited to have a reason to go out and a safe place (in) the world again and get to experience some art,” Wright says.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, Martha Street Studio asks that people do not visit if they have a confirmed or presumptive case of COVID-19. Masks are also required. 

In the past, visitors would have been able to walk in, but the doors are now locked. Someone at Martha Street will let guests enter and go over the requirements to be in the building. Five people are allowed to be in the gallery at one time.

Members also have to book the space in advance. They are obligated to clean and disinfect their space after they are finished and deposit studio items in a bin to be disinfected by a technician or instructor. The number of people in the studio will be reduced in compliance with safety regulations outlined by the government.

“The folks that run this joint are so wonderfully committed, and there is a real passion for this place not only to survive but thrive. Almost predictably, it’s going really well, despite all the craziness,” Wright says.

To view the members’ show online, go to printmakers.mb.ca. To book a viewing or purchase art in advance, email askmartha@printmakers.mb.ca. The studio and gallery at 11 Martha St. is wheelchair accessible. 

Published in Volume 75, Number 07 of The Uniter (October 29, 2020)

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