The West Windsor Arts Council, like many other local organizations and businesses, wanted to do something in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. So the group stuck to what it knows.
The council’s exhibition committee will present Art and Healing, an online exhibition starting Aug. 31 and running through Oct. 23. A virtual opening reception is scheduled for Sept. 11 from 7:15 to 9 p.m. The exhibition will run online only.
The exhibition centers on how art can be used as a healing tool in the wake of a global pandemic and otherwise.
“We invited artists to explore the theme of Art and Healing, not only as it relates to the Covid-19 pandemic and the profound impact it has had on our lives, but also as a reflection on past life experiences or feelings relating to healing from any condition or challenge,” said Aylin Green, the executive director of the West Windsor Arts Council. “As we cautiously emerge from the quarantines of the past few months, WWAC has created an exhibition that looks at art as a healing tool, reflecting the realities, feelings, or experiences during this surreal time, or from other past events, either personal or public.”
Works in the show range from transformative photographs and fractured collages to weavings as documentation and video footage of New York City in the present.
“While art became a way to relieve suffering due to direct consequences of the pandemic, we were reminded of other times where it played a factor in the healing process,” Green said.
The exhibition will feature pieces by 35 artists: Hamish Abrahms, Zakia Ahmed, Maureen Bennett, Joe Bucciano, Vincent Bush, Thomas Chiola, Connie Cruser, Ceil Diskin, Joann Donatiello, Ilene Dube, Gary David Fournier, Jay Goldberg, Spriha Gupta, Joelle Hofbauer, Margaret Kalvar, Joy Kreves and Ivia Sky Yavelow, Joe LaMattina, Sang-Yeol Lee, Yun Li, Kathleen Hurley Liao, Eleni Litt, Beth Malcolm, Judith Marchand and David P. Horowitz, Kim Matthews, Lucretia Ellen McGuff-Silverman, John Piccoli, Helene Plank, William Plank, Karen Schoenitz, Alok Sharma, Anubha Sood, Ilana Visotsky and Lauren Vroegindewey.
Lisa Freeman, co-creator of the Holistic Medicine Program at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital-Hamilton Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, was the juror.
Bennett, a visual artist, has spent time during self-isolation creating mandalas—including “Quarantine Backyard Mandala: Azalea Harmony,” which is featured in the WWAC’s exhibition.
“My well-being is woven into my love of nature,” she said. “…All work is inspired by my backyard and woodlands in New Jersey.”
Works will be available for purchase—70% of each sale goes directly to the artist. The artists will also be on-hand to discuss their pieces during the Zoom reception.
Art and Healing is the West Windsor Arts Council’s fourth virtual exhibition since the pandemic closed the arts center. Prior to coronavirus, though, all of the organization’s events and exhibitions were held in-person.
It’s been a learning process, said Green, but she added that each show teaches her and the rest of the WWAC staff something new.
“We have learned and innovated quite a lot in the last few months, and are refining our presentation each time,” she said. “One thing that both our in-person and virtual opening receptions always feature is an opportunity for the artists in the show to each speak about their work. We have found this to be a powerful means to help artists and audiences connect.”
The pandemic has affected more than just the West Windsor Arts Council’s exhibitions, though. The organization’s summer camp is one of its biggest draws—obviously, they were unable to offer the full in-person experience this year.
Still, Green said, the council is doing its best to adapt to new times while continuing to serve the community.
“We are very proud of the quality of these programs and the innovations we were able to make, but people are hurting and we have not seen the same levels of registration,” she said. “We are organizing mostly virtual events and programs this year with limited in-person programs to be held outdoors or with limited interaction. We made a commitment to be here for our community now and in the future, so we are doing our best to fulfill that promise.”
One positive the council has been able to draw from its virtual events and exhibitions is a wider net of participation. Artists and viewers from outside of the immediate area have been able to interact through the last four events.
Fostering a sense of community is important, Green said, especially when we can’t come together in person.
“During the receptions for the last four exhibitions, we were able to include people from next door and from around the world,” she said. “Many expressed that they are feeling very isolated right now. These events are an opportunity to socialize and learn what others are thinking and feeling and to stretch our understanding of art and its role in human expression. An exhibit like this is about creating connections, and that is incredibly important. Now more than ever.”