HUDSON — Local artists are turning to digital gallery platforms as nonessential businesses remain closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Open Studio Hudson organizer Jane Ehrlich, a mixed- media artist with a background in marketing and design, was starting to make plans for this year’s event before the virus started to spread in New York.
“Last year I created the Open Studio Hudson 2019 inaugural event,” Ehrlich said. “It was a great success and brought many tourists and collectors to Hudson. It also helped unite (and) connect Hudson’s divergent artists.”
As a result of the disruption, Ehrlich reached out to local artists and began developing an online market where their artwork could be sold.
Open Studio Hudson Online will offer artists’ work for sale, as well as other experiences for art enthusiasts, including themed exhibitions, presentations, virtual studio tours, viewing rooms, lectures and online conversations.
It will also serve as a place to share resources and announcements between artists whose lives have been interrupted by COVID-19. Open Studio Online will continue to serve as an adjunct to Open Studio Hudson in the future.
In 2019, the citywide Columbus Day Weekend event boasted more than 40 artists in a wide variety of media from painting to sculpture, design, photography and printmaking. Ehrlich said many more were expected to participate this year before the pandemic hit.
Prior to Open Studio Hudson 2019, the city had not hosted an open studio tour for artists since 2012. It was partially funded by a grant from The Arts & Entertainment Committee and Tourism Board.
The Hudson area has a long history of attracting artists, dating back to when Frederic Church built Olana in the 1870s overlooking the Hudson River with the Catskill Mountains in the distance, along with many other landscape artists.
“It is the river and the ever-changing dynamics of the place that bring many of all kinds of people together,” Time & Space Ltd. co-founder Linda Mussmann said. “It is the recipe that can make a place a splendid mix of joy and drama, and excite the minds of those who like to be creative.”
TSL co-sponsored the closing reception for Open Studio Hudson in 2019, but is now turning its efforts to sharing comfort meals with the community.
“We as artists are proud to help make people’s lives a bit easier,” Mussmann said. “Right now in this time of sadness and isolation we are about feeding the heart, soul and now the stomach. It is all about the love of humanity, and this is the mission of TSL, and the mission of artists.”
In 2017, Hudson ranked sixth on the National Center for Arts Research’s Top 10 Arts Vibrant Small Communities.
“Hudson is a walkable former factory town that has attracted artists for decades,” Ehrlich said. “It is filled with restaurants, galleries, music venues and boutiques. Most importantly it remains a culturally rich, independent and friendly town.”
Local artist Lydia Rubio has occupied a studio on Warren Street for about a year. After considering her financial future in the wake of COVID-19, she recently decided to create a studio at home and open a digital gallery in her web page, www.lydiarubio.com. She will also be showing in Open Studios Hudson and the Davis Orton Gallery.
“The idea of going digital is great, and even main galleries are doing it, right?” Rubio said. “It will free the art world from old rules and it will eventually help a lot of artists. It is like a new age... it’s a change that might benefit everyone.”
Rubio has been using this time to work on an abstract series called “Encounters,” which she hangs in her living room on the “Pandemic Wall.”
“It’s about struggle — the struggle of exterior forces and a stable rectangle,” Rubio said. “In a sense, it’s a contrast of elements, isolation versus activity, movement versus static.”
Rubio said she feels lucky to have the creative work to do, otherwise she doesn’t know how she would handle isolation.
Ehrlich imagined Open Studio Hudson last fall as the ideal time to change the open-studio concept. She focused on social media and a cohesive website identity to showcase the independent artists living and working in the area to collectors, tourists and locals alike.
“The experience of intimacy of visiting an artist’s studio and the one-to-one communication cannot be replaced, but [social media] can enhance the experience,” Ehrlich said. “The online technology can offer essential updated artists work and a viewership that goes beyond boundaried locations.”
“I think that Hudson is developing a very good reputation of a center for artists — and good artists — that is unusual,” Rubio said. “People are noticing, New York is noticing.”