A few weeks ago—just after Thanksgiving—I received an unexpected package in the mail from artist/curator Crystalle Lacouture. Contained within was a limited run wood-block print, a directive, and a booklet of matches, all related to a timely project—#farewellgoodbye2020.
The message of the letter, which you can read at the link below, was essentially this: 2020 was an awful year. Say goodbye to it in a letter, open up the booklet of matches, and light it up.
I was delighted to finally have this brilliant, actionable way to bid this year of years adieu. I told friends and family and colleagues about it. I posted it on Instagram. I was not alone in my enthusiasm. Anyone can now download the letter and partake in the project.
But as I pondered the many ways in which I would bid good riddance to 2020 before throwing my letter into a conflagration (likely our barbeque grill), I was also reminded of the positive moments of the past nine months. While there were many things that we missed in 2020—things like sanity, art exhibits and dinners out, and seeing the bottom halves of faces—there were also a handful of COVID-silver linings that shone through.
As the director of a small visual arts non-profit, the effects of the COVID shutdown on my world were immediate and acute. On March 12, we were open for business, planning exhibits and a 75th anniversary celebration. On March 13, we were closed—for two weeks that turned into 3 months. Programs and exhibits were cancelled. That 75th anniversary celebration was put on ice. But, in the face of uncertainty, we began to map out ways to keep our community connected, virtually.
These many months later, I look back at the highlights of a challenging year. Between early April and early July, we hosted Virtual Studio Visits with 16 artists—offering 30 minutes of respite and connection for artists and art lovers. In June, we re-opened one of our gallery spaces, and launched a Shopify page as a “virtual” gallery space. That same month, we hosted a postcard fundraiser, selling nearly 100 original postcards to support both the organization and artists in our community. We were buoyed by a PPP loan, as well as municipal and foundation support. For the first time ever, we were able to pay our interns an hourly wage, taking an important step towards equity in the art world. And, another first – our longtime supporter, Ed Schein, joined us for the virtual opening of our Mary Schein Fall Salon from his home in California, thanks to ZOOM.
I’m also grateful for the smaller moments—seeing artists and colleagues in real life for the first time in months. Receiving notes of appreciation for keeping things going, and providing artists with an outlet. While I look forward to putting 2020 in my rearview, and cleansing away the challenges wrought by the past nine months, I’m also grateful for the lessons I’ve learned, and the strength I’ve seen on display in the arts community. Here’s to a better 2021, and farewell, goodbye 2020.
Copyright © 2020 Erin Becker
Erin Becker is the Norma Jean Calderwood Director of the Cambridge Art Association.