Since 2013, Louisville Visual Art and the University of Louisville Hite Art Institute have marked the first weekend of November with Open Studio Weekend, an invitation to the public to step inside dozens of artists’ work spaces across the Metro and get a glimpse into their creative process.
But like so many things in 2020, this year’s event has been postponed. It would have been Nov. 7 and 8.
“I felt disappointed, certainly,” LVA executive director Kristian Anderson. “But ultimately, people’s health and public safety is the paramount importance.”
Open Studio Weekend organizers had hoped things could carry on, knowing that many artists are experiencing economic woes from pandemic-related shutdowns and restrictions, and “everybody in our society has been sort of cooped up.”
“What art can do to sort of express some of these shared traumas of what we’re going through with this pandemic, it has an ability to sort of bring people together and provide comfort,” Anderson said.
But watching the state’s surging numbers of new coronavirus cases and listening to state recommendations — Gov. Andy Beshear and state public health commissioner Dr. Steven Stack have been imploring Kentuckians to stay home except for essential needs and to not attend gatherings — Anderson said it started to feel dicey to try to hold an in-person event.
In 2019, the event drew several hundred people to the studios of more than 60 artists, according to LVA’s numbers.
“So, it’s not even like a small gathering, it’s a no gathering,” he said of the state guidance. “I’m an arts person, not a scientist, and so I want to go on what they say.”
A number of the artists agreed.
Andreson said they had surveyed the nearly 60 artists participating in this year’s event, “asking them their comfort level and how they would feel about doing it virtually versus in person.”
“Almost 50% of the artists at this point weren’t comfortable doing anything in person, and a lot of them weren’t really interested in doing a virtual component because they feel like their art should be seen in person,” Anderson said.
While a future date for the event is undetermined, some aspects of it will move forward this weekend.
LVA will launch a website to promote the open studio concept, encouraging people to get to know their local artists and ask them questions. It will be available year-round.
Opening Friday, Hite Art Institute will host an Open Studio Weekend exhibition at U of L’s Cressman Center for Visual Arts, displaying the work of Open Studio Weekend artists from previous years.
“And we’re not canceling an event,” Anderson said as a reminder. “We’re just postponing it. So it will happen.”