This year’s members’ exhibition at Artsbridge is a do-over of sorts.
Held annually in late winter or early spring, the 2020 showcase was cut short due to the onset of COVID-19. This year’s event, though, will be fully virtual—the online opening reception is set for March 26 at 6:30 p.m.
The exhibition will consist of a variety of works that celebrate the energy and inspiration of the Delaware River Valley. Mediums include sculpture, ceramics, fabric art, jewelry, metal, watercolor, pastels, prints, drawings, photography, digital art, acrylic paintings and oil paintings. Prizes will be awarded for works in five different media, and one painting will receive the Ty Hodanish Award for Oil Landscape.
The show’s jurist is Carol Cruickshanks, an artist and 10-year director of New Hope Arts. An art specialist with Rago Auctions in Lambertville, she is a former faculty member at the College of New Jersey and has appeared in the New England Journal of Public Policy, Modernism Magazine and the American Art Review.
The decision to host the exhibition as a virtual event was a no-brainer—it’s what Artsbridge, like many other arts-based organizations, has been doing for the last year.
“In this time of COVID-19, we are able to invite the public to see great art from the safety of their own homes, with no travel involved,” said Gary Fournier, Artsbridge president. “We can engage people from anywhere in the world, and are able to attract new members from outside our immediate area. An online exhibition eliminates the need for a venue, and a host of volunteers for intake, hanging, reception hosting and gallery sitting.”
That’s not to say it doesn’t have its drawbacks.
“Mounting an online exhibition is new to Artsbridge, and it has its technical challenge—with few volunteers technically savvy enough to assist,” Fournier said. “Members of the public, who would like to view the exhibit, must have the technical wherewithal to do so. Even with the wonder and simplicity of Zoom, there’s the occasional loss of wifi signal and other technical glitches that cause problems. Finally, most would agree that art is best viewed up close and in person, rather than on a computer screen.”
Still, Fournier said the organization is happy to adapt if it means they’re still able to bring art to the area’s masses.
Artsbridge typically holds monthly Distinguished Artist presentations over Zoom. These feature an up-front narrative, presentations, live demonstrations and a Q&A session. Though there were some hiccups early on—the Zoom learning curve, wifi drops—the virtual programs have been successful. Fournier says attendance has actually increased over the last year.
“Our programs have always been well received, but in-person events usually were attended by between 25-35 on average,” he said. “Our Zoom presentations have ranged from 40 to as many as 70. Another advantage: our ‘Distinguished Artist’ speaker can come to us from anywhere in the world. Last fall, an artist presented from Ogden, Utah, and in December, a docent at the Michener Museum in Doylestown, took us on a tour of their collection’s Impressionist Winter landscape paintings.”
Also coming up at Artsbridge is the annual outdoor event at Prallsville Mills in Stockton, typically held in late summer or early fall. Works at this event, as well as the members’ exhibition, are available for purchase.
“The Artsbridge Members’ Exhibition is commission-free for the artist, so art collectors can find art by the area’s finest artists at a great value,” Fournier said. “The late summer/early fall outdoor exhibition is a wonderful opportunity for the frugal collector to find fine art at exceptional prices.”
The organization also is home to a plein air painting group, the River Rats, that has outings once a week.
“It’s a great opportunity for artists to share their work and learn tips and techniques from each other,” Fournier said. “They will continue using social distancing and wearing masks as long as necessary.”
Fournier said Artsbridge as a whole is looking forward to hosting larger outdoor events again as the weather warms up—and, hopefully, as the pandemic eases up.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a 26-year history and good group of dedicated volunteers,” he said. “This has helped us to sustain our membership. Our plans include returning to the historic Prallsville Mills in Stockton for our in-person events each month—as soon as it is allowed and safe to do so. This will likely be after most have received their COVID vaccine shots and the state guidelines allow.”
Artsbridge, P.O. Box 534, Lambertville. Phone: (551) 208-5119. Web: artsbridgeonline.com.