Fall 2020 Publisher's Letter: What Lies Ahead? How Can We Ensure Access?
By GINNY VAN ALYEA
It has now been half a year since we have been able to access people, places and art in the ways we once did. After April and May when so much was shut down, July and August have offered glimpses of life for the forseeable future – more limited, still within reach, as long as you plan ahead and as long as you begin to accept life’s many risks, COVID-19-related or not.
Yet it seems the goal posts still move daily. I want a crystal ball – one that would show me it’s all going to be OK, and when. Without one, and in order to be able to participate safely in life in Chicago, I have spent time evolving my own tolerance for risk; I realize it’s a luxury to be able to thoughtfully weigh risks, as many people in our community do not have much choice about where they live, where they work from or with whom they are in contact. We live among many levels of accessibility, undoubtedly with barriers.
Most of us have been denied levels of access in the short term. But what about those who have faced it in the long term? As we follow critcal safety measures now, when we visit galleries and museums or attend events, how do these new limits inhibit those who already have to clear a high bar? The neccessity of timed entries, capacity limits, reservations, not to mention internet access, likely excludes communities we seek to reach more than before.
How do we continue to pursue a love of art while supporting the art industry and keeping everyone safe? This fall, spaces are planning new shows or opening exhibitions postponed in the spring. We are not back to normal. We may never be. This season there are no international art fairs coming to Navy Pier (closed until spring.) Neighborhood markets and festivals are on hold. But the traditionally energetic September start to the art season will still take place. It will be over the course of a long weekend, with less spontaneity, and fewer people, but it will happen. Many nonprofits are readying plans for virtual galas. Open House Chicago will span 10 days, outdoors and online, and include new neighborhoods. There are undoubtedly opportunities in exploring new terrain, even when it’s steep.
With some free time this summer to think about how to get art in front of more Chicagoans long term, I looked up the Chicago Public Library’s Kids Museum Passports – a terrific program that allows CPL cardholders and adult residents to visit area museums for free with children. While these passes allow families to visit for free, unless otherwise noted, a group must include at least one child under 18 for the Passport to be valid; only two adults are admitted per pass. They are not for adults-only visits. Plus the pass must be checked out in person, not virtually or downloaded.
When I thought about musuem free days and times for area residents, limits and scheduling inconveniences exist there too. Though museum finances have been severely impacted this year, perhaps some could devise free pass programs, ala SpotHero: check for upcoming ‘spots’ or visiting times, then download a pass that begins a countdown of useability. The flexibility could encourage more convenient and frequent encounters with art.
Additionally the library could update its Passport to be mobile and to accomodate adults. While some galleries use Tock to set up visiting times, maybe they will also host a no-reservations-needed hour, when people, distanced of course, may still stop in without an appointment (like the old days!)
This is all praying that Chicago pulls through one of the most distressing and violent periods in recent history, and that institutions and businesses will be able to keep their doors open and someday thrive again.
For now, please use CGN as a resource to explore art from home – as well as safely in person – in our newly distanced world. This issue features interviews with many art world makers and leaders who offer insights on working as an artist today, collecting art, writing about and photographing art, designing with art, and more.
2020 has given us all many challenges, and more are still to come. We are a long way from the summit, but on the way up the view is ever-changing, and we have the opportunity to notice things we weren’t able to before – crystal ball or not.
Our fall 2020 issue of CGN is out now. To receive a print copy, please subscribe for $20/year!