Back in mid-March, as large group gatherings began getting canceled and businesses were forced to shut their doors, the members of the St. Paul Art Collective could see little hope for hosting their semiannual art crawl.
While the physical event — set for the last weekend of April — could no longer take place, the group quickly chose to move everything online.
A large-scale event that last year featured over 300 artists at 30-odd locations across St. Paul, the Art Crawl typically draws thousands of visitors come fall and spring.
The virtual crawl will be held Friday through Sunday on the St. Paul Virtual Art Crawl Facebook page and will feature sculptors, painters, jewelers, musicians and more.
Local artists will be signing on to share old and recent work with the viewers at home. Pieces for sale can be discussed or purchased through one-on-one messaging with each artist or through their personal websites. The crawl will also offer scheduled livestreams and virtual classes.
Lisa McCann, director of community development at St. Paul Art Collective, says creators are excited about the event’s survival and are ready to adapt to the new format.
“The artists have really stepped up,” McCann said. “They are creating the most amazing combinations with a digital platform and their traditional art. It’s been really impressive.”
Pottery and painting duo Alana Hawley and Ryan Ball of Portray Clay Co. are artists participating in the event. Ball crafts pottery and Hawley paints the finished pieces. Along with selling recent work through the event’s page, the two look forward to doing live creating for viewers.
“We’re going to try to get some human engagement with potential customers and patrons and people who are interested in art in that way,“ Hawley said.
Many local artists have been losing work in light of the pandemic. The Art Crawl is typically a large opportunity for working artists in and around the Twin Cities.
“It's the first big art event of the spring. What it usually means is that artists open their galleries, they open their studios in the springtime to bring everybody in person, but we couldn’t do that this year,” McCann said.
Landscape painter Coreen Johnson says the event’s virtual adaptation means a great deal to artists who were anticipating showing work.
“I’d say it's pretty much a lifeline for a lot of artists,” Johnson said. “Now the only way you can show your work to anyone is online. Obviously, it’s not quite the same scene as one-on-one [or] in the flesh, but you know for now that’s just what we’ve got to make do with.”
Acrylic painter Linda Clayton sees the virtual Art Crawl as a great way to spread local art beyond the weekend art crawl and engage with new audiences.
“I think it’s just a great unique experience for people to connect with artists, to maybe immerse themselves in art a little bit more than they would going to an actual museum,” she said.
McCann believes the convenience of the virtual crawl will benefit both art browsers and sellers.
“I have heard from people out of state every single day saying, ‘Oh my gosh, we don’t have to fly back to Minnesota to participate in the Art Crawl. We can see all of this amazing art in one place, purchase it and relive our times in Minnesota,”’ she said.
Despite the obvious setbacks of COVID-19, the St. Paul Art Crawl is still bringing art to the masses.