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Notes from the Pandemic




2021-06-01 21:18:57

Post by

Margaret Weinland

.. a visit to MASS MoCA in August 2020, during a brief period when the museum was both open and allowing New Yorkers to come…. this reflection in a sculpture is a good portrait of how this pandemic is feeling

I have felt so art-starved during the pandemic. The other day I went to the Clark Art Institute with a friend who is a member. She had a reservation for two for a 10 am visit (reservations = a new COVID measure to manage attendance although the museums have never been emptier). My friend is a member of the Clark, 14 miles from us, and I am a member of MASS MoCA (the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), another world- class museum 19 miles away.

As the pandemic began, the museums closed. Once they reopened. state restrictions based on infection rates were put into place. As close as we live, we’ve been unable to go to these museums most of the year because as New Yorkers, we’re on the “wrong” side of the state line. On top of every other consideration, in the US, the 50 states all have different travel restrictions. I live almost directly on a tri-state border (New York- Massacusetts-Vermont) and while I could cross the state line for “essential” reasons (groceries, the doctor), art has not been considered essential.

Last month I badly wanted to attend an event at MASS MoCA. In order to be allowed in, I needed to cross the state border into Vermont to get a COVID test at the hospital closest to me. Normally a test for “non-medical” reasons (travel to another state) would cost at least $135 and would not be covered by my health insurance. The hospital quietly let me know that they would be billing the reason for the test as “possible exposure” (assuming we’ve all been exposed somewhere) and it would be covered. I then decided I could afford a trip to the museum and it was GREAT! Technically, after “traveling” to Massachusetts I should have quarantined in New York State for 14 days. I decided that since I was already vaccinated, and I routinely shopped for groceries across the street from the museum, I would ignore this.

Very recently, Massachusetts decided that fully vaccinated people MAY waive the state’s requirement for a test or quarantine, so I absolutely carried my Proof of Vaccination when I went to the Clark with my friend the other day....and the museum absolutely required us to show them this proof. After this year of closings, cancelled seasons & small attendances,

museums, theater, dance and concert venues are in more dire financial straights. This year’s limited offerings are not going to make up what’s needed.


Right before the pandemic began, I delivered 5 watercolor paintings as part of a group exhibit. The show was supposed to hang for 3 months and sales were to benefit our local hospital’s programs. As things went, almost as soon as the exhibit went up, the space closed down. Six months later, we took our work back down as the space re-opened. After the first two weeks, no one saw the exhibit.

On the other hand, I am in charge of scheduling artists for the small gallery space in our local library. Work is usually displayed for 3 months and, at the start of 2020, we had scheduled well into 2021. As State, County and Town restrictions have changed from week to week with infection rates and other variables, I have made adjustments to everyone’s calendars in an effort to give each artist at least 3 months of “open” time. Even so, the library has had many fewer visitors to appreciate what the artists have done.

Margaret Weinland Petersburgh NY USA

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