In the spring, I interviewed seven accomplished Savannah-based artists about the pandemic’s impacts on their work.
The artists’ experiences varied, but they were all still working in some fashion. The crisis had changed their lives dramatically, but their daily routines consisted of creating – or laying the groundwork for creation.
For Susan Laney, owner of the art gallery Laney Contemporary, the pandemic initially brought deep concerns about the future of art sales and about the safety of visitors, collectors and staff.
Now, six months later, Laney reports that folks are still collecting art, sometimes with a renewed interest or urgency. New buyers are also stepping off the sidelines.
“People are home and realizing the things that have value,” Laney said in answer to my question about collectors’ current motivations.
“They’re talking about art, thinking about art, thinking about how art is affecting their lives.”
But foot traffic at the gallery is still down, Laney said, so she and her team have tried new approaches.
The Laney Contemporary Instagram now features a collection of IGTV videos that provide glimpses into the creative process.
In a short video to launch the a new series with collectors talking about works with special meaning, Laney herself discussed the photograph “Savannah Saw Works” by the late Jack Leigh, with whom she worked for many years.View this post on Instagram
Susan Laney on Jack Leigh
The videos have also given viewers a chance to connect more personally with artists by going virtually into their studios.
The pandemic also prompted changes in the gallery’s exhibition schedule.
In addition to a previously planned show of compelling work by Blanche Nettles Powers, Laney Contemporary organized the group show “Clerestory,” named for the high walls with many windows often found in churches.
Laney said that one goal of “Clerestory” was to combine light and color for an upbeat exhibition at a difficult moment.
Both “Clerestory” and Nettles Powers’ “Structure of Comfort” will remain on view through at least Sept. 19.
Despite the gallery’s out-of-the-way location, opening receptions at Laney Contemporary typically attract more than 200 people, according to Laney, but the most recent opening drew fewer than half that number.
And that was just fine with Laney. Most of the event was held outside, and the gallery sharply restricted the number of visitors inside at any given moment.
Laney said that the art world has also had to adjust to cancellations of high-profile events like Art Basel in Miami Beach.
The changes have pushed gallery owners to forge new connections with their communities, including nonprofit groups.
Laney said that she still has fears about the future and vividly remembers the short timelines of the early days of the pandemic, when it seemed like we were perpetually waiting another two weeks and another two weeks for more information.
But Laney emphasized her gratefulness that people have embraced art and creativity during the pandemic, and she is heartened to hear that Savannah is attracting more attention from gallery owners, curators and collectors around the country.
“More and more of these art-driven people are interested in finding out more about Savannah,” Laney said.
Bill Dawers writes the City Talk column for the Savannah Morning News.