Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories on how the arts community is weathering the challenges brought on by COVID-19.
As the impact of the pandemic spread, Gloucester artist Kathy Roberts found it challenging at first to get into her home art studio to paint. But before long, she picked up her paintbrushes again and began to work.
She finds artistic inspiration in everything around her in this seaside community, from the pounding surf on the Back Shore to scenic views in Manchester-by-the-Sea. Her compositions include the harbor and beaches, as well as floral works and still lifes.
"Artists often are drawn to subjects that have a strong emotional appeal," Roberts said. "For me, it is Cape Ann's scenic coast, where I spent all my summers at the beach as a child and which I still enjoy as an adult. I always feel at peace when I am painting in that environment.
"I have more time on my hands now because usually I watch my grandchildren two or three days a week and visit my mom," she said. "But that has come to a halt. So with this time, I am trying to make the best of it and see the silver lining. It is an opportunity to paint more, read more, and do my social marketing on Instagram and Facebook."
She had an art show planned for the month of April and part of May at Santander Bank in Manchester-by-the-Sea. But that was canceled. She also had to cancel her spring "Watercolor for Beginners" class, which she held at her home.
In the meantime, Roberts has been listening to a lot of art podcasts on diverse subjects.
"As an artist, I thought about how I could contribute in a way that might bring some joy, creativity and color into our neighborhood and community to share with others while also adhering to social distancing — a drive-by art event with music," she said. "It has been such a difficult season for so many of our community members."
So she put the word out on social media about her "Drive-By Art Show" on Lendall Street, a cul de sac, in Gloucester.
On Sunday, May 3, she put up a clothesline in front of her house, hung her artwork for all to enjoy and turned on the music.
"I didn't know how it would work out, but it was a great success," Roberts said. "We all had masks on, but we were still able to talk to people through the car. This wasn't about selling anything. It was about having a fun event but it ended up with a few sales — that was a bonus."
In total, about 30 people came by and about 16 cars drove through. The 10th car to arrive received a free print of one of her paintings.
"I would definitely consider doing it again," Roberts said. "It was nice to reconnect with friends and family and meet new people, as well."
With springtime now bringing in the season of growth, Roberts looks forward to feeling hopeful about the future.
In that spirit, she shares one of her favorite inspirational messages from German artist Gerhard Richter: "Art is the highest form of hope."
MEET THE ARTIST
Name: Kathy Roberts
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Are you an artist facing challenges or forced to change the way you approach your craft amid the COVID-19 pandemic? We want to highlight local visual artists, musicians, performers and others in the region's arts community and the creative solutions they’re using to continue pursuing their passions. Reach out to Sonya Vartabedian, managing editor for features, at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re willing to share your story.