JAMESTOWN, R.I. — It’s said art can be found all around, and that will be even more prevalent Saturday all across Conanicut Island as the Jamestown Arts Center has teamed up with the Jamestown Alliance for Artist Sustainability (JAAS) and the Conanicut Island Art Association (CIAA) to host a one day exhibition called Outdoor Open Studios and Drive-By-Art Offerings.
The exhibition, which features over 30 artists at 16 different locations throughout the town, will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and feature a variety of displays by artists and members of all three organizations, with social distancing kept in mind and displays set according to the artist’s comfort level. All displays can be located using an interactive Google Map to further limit contact as well as save paper, according to JAC Exhibitions Director Karen Conway.
“This year Molly Dickinson, who put together the outdoor art experience for the Jamestown Art Center, she did a Google Map for us, so that way we didn’t have a lot of the same restrictions that you would with a print deadline, or costs,” Conway said. “It also lessens our carbon footprint and if things change, we can easily change it and it’s not an issue. Google Maps made it a lot more flexible, and I think we all need to be more flexible these days.”
The event has been held for the past six years by the JAAS, but with the groups sharing many of the same members, Conway said it was the perfect opportunity for them to come together.
“They’ve been doing this for over six years now and the Jamestown Arts Center tries to have open studios at the art center as well,” Conway said, adding they had talked about collaborating for the past two years. “This past year, we’ve taken over some of the organization of that, because that’s a completely volunteer organization and we share a lot of the same, if not all of the same, members, so we just thought it would be really easy since we have the infrastructure in place for us to help them.”
She was also glad to partner with the CIAA, a first for the organization on the island.
“We’ve never partnered with the Conanicut Island Art Association,” Conway said. “We’re 10 years old and we’ve wanted to engage with them for a long time. Our former director Lisa Randall was talking to them right before COVID, so I thought immediately ‘let’s call them up and see if they want to participate’ and really highlight and focus on the incredible artists in Jamestown. We’re so lucky to have such an incredible resource.”
As for the exhibition itself, the idea for this particular setup came to Conway through some similar outdoor exhibits that have been happenning on Long Island this past spring and summer.
“The first one I saw was in The Hamptons, they did a drive-by in East Hampton,” Conway said. “There’s some major artists out there and everybody just put art outside and they just drove by and I was just like ‘that’s a great idea, I wonder if we could try to do some type of hybrid where people have their art outside.’”
Each outdoor exhibit set up will be placed in different areas around town which can be located via a custom made Google Map by JAC Development and Special Projects person Molly Dickinson, and each exhibit will be different not just in terms of the pieces and presentation, but the guidelines, which were left up to the individual artists.
‘We still have social distancing, if you want to just do a drive-by you can, like Peter Marcus is just doing a drive-by so he has art in front of his studio, but other people like Jillian Barber and Elaine Porter, their work is going to be outside where you can also see it and stop and you can buy something if you want,” Conway said. “I like it because it’s just different levels and whatever people feel comfortable with, both the artist and the visitor.”
Along with the displays at different locations, Out of the Box studio artists will be holding outdoor studio time with guest artist Josy Wright outside of the JAC itself, which will have open gallery hours for guests to view some of their latest exhibits, including a recently installed labyrinth in the parking lot called “Beckett’s Maze: Go On” and “Art of Protest,” which is a display made up of protest signs and poster art from recent Black Lives Matter protests.
Like many local businesses, Conway says the JAC had found navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic impacts as a struggle.
“It’s our 10th anniversary and we couldn’t have our big soirée, which is our biggest fundraiser of the year, so that’s been challenging financially,” Conway said.
At the same time, however, Conway says the support from the Jamestown community has been great.
“We’re so lucky to have one the community support and two just to have our building because our building allows us to be open, so we really pushed as soon as we could to get the building back open or at least the main gallery,” Conway said. “People, I’ve found, have been really missing the arts and to be able to be in a space.”
At the end of the day, to Conway, that’s what it all comes down to.
“The (JAC) is an incredible part of all of our lives and to be able to share it with the whole community and get all three organizations together and just celebrate the arts in Jamestown, it’s why we do things, to keep engaged and enriching people’s lives through the arts,” Conway said.
The Outdoor Open Studios and Drive-By-Art Offerings will be held this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a rain date of Sunday at the same times, at various locations across Jamestown, which can be found by viewing the custom Google Map at outdoorartsexperience.org/partner-locations.
The Jamestown Arts Center is located at 18 Valley Street in Jamestown. For more information, visit their website jamestownartcenter.org or call (401) 560-0979.