Fundraiser launched to help boost arts centre
At the moment, the prospects are “dismal”, but Heidi Cowen is hoping a year-long fundraiser will get the Bermuda Arts Centre through the economic nightmare caused by Covid-19.
Long before the pandemic hit, seven artists committed to donating a painting a week each as a way of raising extra cash for the Dockyard gallery. The agreement was that the art would measure 6in by 6in and be offered for $66; 100 per cent of the sale would go towards offsetting the arts centre's annual operating cost of roughly $96,000.
“Would we be able to survive without this fundraiser? I would have to say probably not. As an art gallery and registered charity, we struggle. The present fundraiser, Seven x Fifty Two, ... could not have come at a better time for us, because what was supposed to help us along has now turned into a crucial part of keeping the arts centre afloat,” said Ms Cowen, who, like Barb Freda, Christopher Grimes, Marlene Jantzen, Christopher Marson, Tricia Roberts and Michele Smith, is contributing art to the cause.
“[Although] $66 may not sound like a lot, to a gallery that is only taking 35 per cent of sales we would have to sell an item for over $200 in order to make the $66 — impossible to do on a daily basis with a closed gallery. In short, what the seven artists are doing for this show is huge and helping us to carry on.”
The Bermuda Arts Centre has promoted art and artists since 1984. Like many places, it closed when the shelter-in-place order went into effect on April 4.
Mr Grimes and Mr Marson in particular have been instrumental in keeping the gallery afloat year round, Ms Cowen said.
“Without them, the art centre would fall. Both have working studios in the gallery. They are both there every day, in normal circumstances, greeting visitors and talking to them about local art. In addition, Christopher Marson creates all of our digital creations — from invites to our shows to creating the cyber shows now online. Christopher Grimes helps to implement any fundraiser, jumping in when the gallery is busy and basically doing anything and everything needed for the better of things going on.
“These two have lost their studios and their livelihood and still, every week they create a painting to give away and, from home, constantly support the arts centre.”
The idea patterned an earlier effort by Mr Marson. For a year, beginning in August 2018, he completed a painting a day with 100 per cent of the $86 sale price going to the gallery.
“It worked well,” he said. “It was a win-win situation. I got to do a painting every morning and got practice and learnt a lot about the materials I was using. I think they sold probably close to 300. I couldn't have afforded to give them that much money but I could certainly do a painting every day.
“That finished in August I guess and we needed to do another fundraiser. We came up with the idea if we got seven artists to do it each of us only had to do one a week — which is not truly arduous. It's not hard to do one a week and then donate it.”
Although constricted in their movement because of the pandemic, both Mr Marson and Mr Grimes say they are able to draw on “thousands” of photographs they've taken over several decades as inspiration for their work.
“The arts centre is a charity and we're struggling, like all charities, to make ends meet and keep the doors open,” said Mr Grimes. “We've had a number of fundraising events, mostly involving artists. They were pretty successful, but they alone are not going to keep the doors open.
“It's a matter of doing whatever we can to keep the arts centre alive especially now this year because of all the challenges we're going through with the lack of cruise ships, conceivably for the rest of the year, but certainly for the next few months.”
A members' juried show, Coast Lines, has been up on the gallery's website since April 6. The Power of Three, featuring work by Nahed Eid, Triciamary Roberts and Michele Smith, will replace it on May 18.
“We have figured that even if the shelter-at-home is removed there are going to be many restrictions and so another virtual show seems to be the answer,” Ms Cowen said.
Mr Marson will give a virtual acrylic workshop next month, the first in a series of online tutorials planned by the gallery.
“We will now be overseas shippers and also offer island delivery once we are able to get the gallery back up and running,” Ms Cowen said. “As a small business and also a charity, these unpredictable times ahead are frightening. You can either give up, or you can gear up and make changes into what is fast becoming a new world. While things are dismal and bleak at the moment, art, workshops and creativity are an important part of our community. As long as we can, we'll keep supporting, promoting and fighting to keep Bermuda art alive.
“The gallery will carry on for as long as it can by providing workshops, continued fundraisers and making online sales. We generate much of our sales from cruise ship visitors. Not knowing exactly how fast the island will be ‘opening' and to what extent is the main concern. While we can pretty much say there are no cruise visits this year, will there be any flights coming in later in the year? One just doesn't know and so we have to just keep pushing forward, reinventing and continue to support our local artists.”
• Follow the Bermuda Arts Centre at Dockyard at www.artbermuda.com. The gallery posts paintings for sale as part of its Seven x Fifty Two fundraiser at 6am on Facebook and Instagram. The paintings can only be bought by phone, 534-2809, or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org