Arts

Our readers choose their own 'pandemic art heroes'

We asked for your picks, and here's a selection of what you sent to us.

We asked for your picks, and here's a selection of what you sent to us

#Study, Selfie, 2020, by Courtney Clinton, who was named a pandemic art hero by our readers. (Courtney Clinton)

Earlier this month, CBC Arts rounded up some of the Canadian people and organizations we've covered over the past year that have used art to make a big difference during pandemic times. We knew this would just scratch the surface, so we opened things up to our readers to name their own respective "pandemic art heroes" — and we got tons of enthusiastic responses. (Thanks, readers!)

Here's a selection of some of the nominations you sent in: 

Connie from Kimberley, BC: I'm not sure how I came to be following Michael Hepher on Instagram but in some of the earliest and darkest days of the pandemic he was posting his beautiful paintings for sale on Instagram. There was a twist. The paintings were discounted which was in itself wonderful for art lovers with limited means. It was the payment method that was innovative (and heroic). Michael was asking that 1/2 the purchase price be donated to a charity and the other 1/2 sent to a business for a gift card or gift certificate for Michael's use. Charities, local restaurants, art supply stores and others benefited from Michael's art sales. My colleague and I waited each day with anticipation to see what the daily art offering was going to be, which added some fun and excitement to stressful and uncertain days.

Sara from Toronto: Francorama! Discovered his work through CBC Arts back in December 2019 — bought the print you featured here. Finally got the order of the print mid-pandemic summer 2020 and it now sits in my working space and reminds me everyday of my connection to movement and dance. Seeing it daily inspired me to collaborate this winter with Lorenzo Colocado and Shanik Tanna and to create this!

Colette from Montreal: The following artist is a Pandemic Art Hero: Courtney Clinton. Nearly as soon as the first lockdown started and everyone felt particularly helpless, Courtney was one of the first artists to explore teaching online drawing classes on Instagram and offered all her classes for free. It was designed with artists and non-artists in mind. These classes were the highlight of my week! After, she went on to give during the summer and fall free online drawing lessons with the Rokeby Museum Distance Drawing project. It was amazing and really fed my artistic practice! I found her incredibly generous with her knowledge and very interactive with all the people who took the time to learn and draw with her. She made a difference in my life as an artist and as a person.

Andrea from Antigonish, NS: Andrew Murray is my COVID-19 art hero. Andrew is an artist, Deputy Mayor for the Town of Antigonish, NS and Chair of the town's Beautification Committee. He's a set and costume designer, interior decorator, funny guy and advocate and role model for LGBTQ2 community and for mental health needs in the community.

Karen from Picton, ON: I'd like to nominate "Art in Isolation," an exhibit that's currently on display in Picton, Ontario, which was organized by Prince Edward County artists and community builders Krista Dalby and Mehdi Agahi. Early in the first lockdown, Krista and Mehdi put out a call for art — anything in any medium that was inspired by the pandemic and representative of the artist's experience. They were flooded with submissions. A private Facebook group was started, and it became a place to share art, observations, reflections. It was really affirming, to see an unsettled community come together in a time when solidarity was so needed. A year later, they mounted the exhibition outdoors in the centre of Picton, Ontario. The exhibit features visual commentary and self-portraits, moments captured documentary-style, scribbles and sketches. It is full of humour, a sense of longing and a sense of waywardness. What will come next? At that point, no one knew. We still don't, I suppose.

Kim from Winnipeg: Jordan Van Sewell from Winnipeg. His ceramic art pieces are sometimes political, sometimes literary, as well as funny and thought-provoking. The characters that he creates are mad and whimsical.

Louise from Ottawa: I met fellow Ottawa-based artist Anita Utas shortly before lockdown. Anita is a passionate animal advocate and has made time to organize wildlife and bird fundraisers. Anita has become my virtual "penpal" with daily messages, art talk and plans for a collaboration. She really is a shining star, talented with a kind heart.

Luay from Fort McMurray, AB: I'd like to recommend the following four Fort McMurray-based artists: Cory Huber, Sherry Duncan, Terri Mort, Barbara Madden. They were a part of a local initiative called the Art of Conversation, where seniors and artists were paired together over the phone to engage in conversations last year. The artists then used the conversations as their muse to create a new piece of artwork that was then gifted to the senior. For our online gallery of art pieces that came out of this project, visit artscouncilwb.ca/art-of-conversation.

Marta from Montreal: My pandemic art hero is Eryn Dace Trudell. She's a dancer who started the amazing project MamaDances. While we were so restricted in human interaction, Erin adapted her work and we started having our Sunday morning virtual gatherings. Through creative dance, Eryn helped moms, babies, kids and families to have a beautiful and creative gathering that made so much for our physical and (especially) mental health! 

Carol from Sidney, BC: My art hero is Wendy Duffield. She is a collage artist, a mentor, and instructor near me in Sidney, BC. I attend her workshops. Despite having to stop teaching, she continued to produce amazing collages during lockdown and is resilient and inspirational. 

Kathleen from Saskatoon: My artist heroes are the Saskatoon dance troup "ksamb." They have been performing free outdoor dance at our local city hall here in Saskatoon, on Friday nights. In winter! Did I say in winter at night, in the prairies! The series is called "Dance Outside."

Bee from Toronto: I wanted to nominate Velvet Wells (or thevelvetduke on Instagram), but it's difficult to pinpoint a specific aspect to his art because all of it is important. His kindness and productivity and vulnerability through this pandemic have kept me tuning in whether it's Hollodeck Follies, the Nooner Crooner, or literally anything Velvet puts his heart into. He is so important.

Merle from Toronto: April Hickox is my pandemic art hero. She is a photographer based on Toronto Island who throughout the pandemic has been getting up at sunrise almost every day to take photos. She has been documenting a pier that reaches out into Lake Ontario, creating for herself and viewers of her work a quiet meditation. This work is what we all need right now: calm, beautiful, and considered. A reminder that in this pandemic, a time of anxiety, fear, and dragging on there is something amazing in focusing on little changes in nature leading over time to profound realizations. You can find her work at aprilhickox.com

Bryn: Through the pandemic, senior sculptor MURAR has continued to be prolific in her quest to produce incredible sculpture. Her passion is addictive and talents endless as she continues to produce monumental sculpture and incredible literary work daily.

Nana: My personal art hero is someone who is near and dear to me in the way that they communicate, the way they present themselves, the way their art comes across to the multitudes, their dedication to their craft and the outright Fest After parties to a zoom show if you have ever experienced. Mx Imogen Quest hosts a monthly online showcase of clown and clown-related bodies of work. You can look them up on Facebook and their cast has an international QTBIPOC orientation. It's been a highlight of my year and I would like to share this magic with you.

Cristina: I wanted to share with you what has helped me and my family get through these trying times over the pandemic. I am fortunate to come from a big, close-knit family — so having to spend time away from them has been a struggle. My own kids are now grown adults; I treat my sister's kids like my own. Mira is six and Michael is three. The one thing that never failed to connect us (two separate households) was the nightly Bedtime Stories with Bee. At 8pm every evening before bed, we would FaceTime while listening and watching Bee read us a story AND of course tell us a riddle. Through Bee, we have managed to make our connection even stronger. The kids would draw pictures from the stories, and Mira has now taken a love of her own for reading! I am forever indebted to Bee for this gift of connection, laughter and sweetness over this crazy time.

Some of these answers have been condensed for length and clarity.

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