It would have been easy for Portland Open Studios to close down in the face of COVID-19. Traditionally an in-person event in which thousands of visitors traipse the city during the second and third weekends of October visiting 100+ artists in their studios, the event was impossible to run as usual.
In fact, most open studio events and art fairs in the region and across the country did shut down. The move was a crushing blow for many artists, many of whom count on art fairs to make a living.
But Open Studios Board President Kirista Trask felt a responsibility to artists. As well, she saw an opportunity to pivot the open studio event to a virtual format.
“Many of our artists have spent years, if not decades, building their art careers.” says Trask, an abstract painter and the owner of CAMBIUM Gallery. “For many, they lost every single income source in a matter of two weeks, and we couldn’t allow Portland Open Studios to be one of them. Rather, we wanted to be the organization that helped pull them out of the rubble.”
To re-create the feeling of visiting a studio, 50 additional artists have agreed to give 30-minute live, interactive talks via Instagram throughout the two weekends. Another 40 have agreed to list their information on the website. And all 91 are encouraged to host a special Portland Open Studios sale on their websites during the event dates: Oct. 10–11 and Oct. 17–18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
To prepare artists and visitors for the challenge, Trask created a social media strategy and training program for the 50 artists who agreed to full participation. Artists were required to make a three-minute video of themselves in the studio, host a website with a shop, and learn how to give a live talk on Instagram.
“Many of our artists have spent the majority of their careers doing live art events,” says Trask. “Going digital takes a whole other set of skills, and I am blown away with how much these artists have grown during this time. It can feel risky and vulnerable to learn a whole new platform, but here we are.”
Artists aren’t the only ones requiring training. Visitors, too, will need to learn how to interact with artists from the computer screen (for more, see "Insider Tip" below). The event’s marketing message, From the Comfort of Your Home: #INVITEARTIN, is designed to apprise longtime tourgoers and new folks alike of the new format.
“We recognize there is a learning curve for visitors,” says Board Chair Leah Kohlenberg, “but if we are going to go virtual, now is the time. People are longing for connection, and in the art world, so many of those normal venues have been cut off this year. It’s really exciting to see an artist in real time, to be able to interact and ask questions and watch process. We need that now. That’s really what the concept of open studios is all about.”
Portland Open Studios
When Oct. 10–11 & 17-18, 2020; 10 a.m.–5 p.m. PDT (West Coast time)
Where From the Comfort of Your Home: #INVITEARTIN
For more portlandopenstudios.com
Insider Tip: How to Get Your Art Fix During Portland Open Studios
- Watch artists live on Instagram during the tour weekends. (The schedule, during the two weekends, will be on portlandopenstudios.com soon.) You can interact, ask questions, and sneak a peek at their studios!
- Shop their sales. You can access a direct shop link on each of the artists’ profiles on portlandopenstudios.com.
- Support your local artists. As always, we’ve organized artists by community this year. Locate the artists in your neighborhoods, attend their live virtual talks online, and shop their sales! They are your local businesses, and they will thrive with your attention.
- Some artists will offer virtual preview shows on Zoom—check those out!
- Host a zoom cocktail party, inviting your friends to watch your favorite artists at work virtually during their live talks.
- Check out our YouTube playlists the night before the event. Each of our 51 live artists has created a three-minute video, so you can get to know them. Find those on our website, portlandopenstudios.com.