Social distancing may be the new normal these days, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy beauty and art.
That’s the message from organizers of Greene County’s numerous public-art exhibits that will take to the streets in the next month or two. The exhibits will put large fiberglass, artist-decorated sculptures on public display — Catskill’s cats, Cairo’s bears, Coxsackie’s owls and, after a four-year hiatus, Greenville’s ducks.
Despite the coronavirus outbreak and the social-distancing regulations that have come with it, the exhibits are expected to go forward.
The Cat’n Around Catskill exhibit, in its 14th year, is the longest-running public-art exhibit in the county.
“We are proceeding with caution, of course,” Karen Robinson from the Heart of Catskill Association said. “We did get many cats in before this all happened, but for those we don’t have yet, we are having the artists take photos and send them in so we can proceed with the brochure and the website. We hope the cats can be put up on time, by Memorial Day weekend, however, in these uncertain times we will certainly be paying attention to guidelines by the Health Department because we are concerned about the health and well-being of our community.”
There will be 59 cats on display throughout Catskill this summer.
The impact of this year’s exhibit could help ease the sense of isolation for many people, Robinson said. “I think we all need some fun and happiness in our lives, and we know how much joy these cats bring, not only to our local community, but to people around the Northeast and the country,” Robinson said.
In Cairo, the Cairo Bears are Back exhibit will put 50 bears on local streets. The artists’ deadline is April 30, so some have been completed and submitted, and others have not.
“We are going to try to keep on schedule and have them up from Memorial Day through Labor Day, but things are in flux,” said Christie Hicks from the Cairo Development Foundation. “We hope outdoor walking will still be a thing and the towns won’t feel like it’s bringing people out to congregate. We think it is uplifting and you can keep social distancing while on the street, so we hope it will still happen.”
Like the cats project, Hicks is asking artists to take photos of their work and hold onto their bears for the time being. Working on the sculptures, Hicks said, has been helpful to many of the artists during the stay-at-home order.
“Some people are relying on art to get them through,” Hicks said. “People are doing crafting, reading books, watching a lot of Broadway stuff that is now posting online. People are trying to stay sane by participating in things that make them feel good.”
In Coxsackie, the Hoot of the Owl exhibit has all 41 owls submitted, and they are headed to Martinez Auto Body to be clear-coated for outdoor display.
“We expect to put them up in the beginning or middle of May,” said Donna Gianola, chairwoman of the Hoot of the Owl Committee. “Hopefully social distancing will be done by the summer, but they will be out in the fresh air, so we are hoping people can still visit. People are out walking now, and while they are doing that they can look at the owls, and it will be something positive to look forward to and raise their spirits.”
Coxsackie Mayor Mark Evans said numerous summer events are on hold for the moment, and the public-art exhibit is one of them.
“We have lots of decisions to make about all the normal summer events that we have, such as the summer recreation program, the farmers market, the Riverside Festival, yard-sale day — all of those things we have to put on hold and wait to see what the directives are from the state and the county, whether those things go forward and if they do, what will they look like?” Evans said. “I am very hopeful that the owl project goes forward.”
This year, Greenville is bringing back its duck project for the first time in years.
“We did Quack Quack Greenville in 2015, so this will be our second Quack Quack Greenville,” said Barbara Walter from the Greenville Beautification Committee. “We are at the stage where the ducks have sponsors and the artists have been picked by the sponsors. The artists are painting the ducks, which they are doing in isolation, so they are proceeding with that. We have time to see how this plays out and what is recommended that people do or don’t do, so we think we have another month or two before we have to decide whether we have to revise our plans.”
The 33 ducks are expected to be installed around the community by the middle of June, Walter said.
“It might be something that is fun to do for people who have to maintain social distancing,” Walter said. “So if we put them out, maybe families can go out and visit the locations, and that would be good. It gives people something to do during a difficult time.”
All four exhibits will conclude in the fall with a gala and auction, with proceeds donated to local charitable organizations.