SUNBURY — Despite the coronavirus lockdowns that have led to cancellations of a number of Susquehanna Art Society events planned for the spring and into the summer, member artists are finding the extra time has been good for their creative juices to flow more freely.
“Creating art requires time and reflection, which many of us have an abundance of during the COVID-19 shutdown,” said society president, Marilyn Paul.
With no activities for members able to be scheduled, she thought the society’s bimonthly newsletter for May/June would have to be canceled as well. But they took a different approach.
“Instead, we asked members to share what they were currently working on,” Paul said. “The result was the largest, most colorful newsletter we ever completed! It was wonderful to see everyone’s work and read their comments.”
As Paul wrote in the newsletter, “(Your contributions) reinforced my belief in the power of art in uncertain times. Art helps us connect, uplifts our spirits, provides an expressive outlet and opens our eyes to social issues.”
Alicia Wilver, of Sunbury, joined the art society in 2019. Her favorite kind of art is painting and photography. During her free time recently, she said, “I’ve been focusing more on broadening my horizons.” That has included exploring more with painting, especially larger scale pieces and acrylics. “It’s neat to see just how different each media can be,” she said. “And creating bigger pieces isn’t as intimidating as I once thought.”
Susan Boudman, of Millville, is also a one-year member of the society. She said she’s been using her stay at home time “to do as much painting as I can,” and that her goal has been to have more work to feature in future shows. She has used social media art sites for painting challenges and support.
During the extra time she has been able to focus on her art, she said she has expanded her palette. “I thought landscapes were my passion,” she said, “but during this time of quarantine, I have been experimenting more with portraits and really enjoying it.” She has even been able to sell several of her paintings during quarantine, she said, and acquire a few commissions.
“I feel fortunate that during this time, I had something to occupy my free time that I thoroughly enjoy,” she said. “I love getting lost in my paintings. I love the point where I can see what started as a blank canvas, turn to an ugly phase, then finally evolve into my vision. I refound something that makes my heart happy!”
Paul said the society’s members range from new artists to professionals, and “We still have active members who originally joined in 1979 when the group was founded.”
Paul joined the society in the 1990s, she said, “seeking the opportunity to exhibit my art and share experiences with local artists.” She has served on the board of directors for many years, and became president in 2019. After 32 years working in the Milton Area School District and raising a family, she said when her sons were in school she took a sabbatical leave to earn a master’s degree in studio art, when she “rediscovered printmaking.” Today, she creates hand-pulled prints on a printing press in her home studio – work that is inspired by nature, she said.
“Making the prints is a step-by-step, hands-on procedure that helps to pass the time during quarantine.”
She encourages artists of every level and medium to make the most of the shutdowns.
“With the gift of time, artists can experiment and explore their art more thoroughly,” she said. “Now is a great time to try something new or really focus on improving one aspect of one’s art.”
She said there are many resources online, including Google Arts and Culture virtual museum tours, and YouTube tutorials on various mediums and techniques. In addition, Susquehanna Art Society member Lina Ferrara, who teaches workshops for artists and classes at the Y Arts Center in Sunbury, has been offering free live oil painting instruction on Friday mornings on her “Lina Ferrara Art Studio” Facebook page.
Wilver said she has loved art since she was a child and describes herself as a lifelong “creature of creativity.” She has been learning to open up more and share her creations with others.
“More people want to create but don’t, due to fear of others not liking their art,” Wilver said. “I admit I was worried to share mine with peers, but don’t worry too much about that. Art is you, and what you feel and admire.”
It’s food for the soul during this time that depression and anxiety could easily sweep in. That’s why the art society continues to strive to keep a love for art alive in its members.
Paul said they were forced to postpone a March meeting in which artists were going to share their experiences on a recent plein air painting trip to Italy, as well as an April critique meeting. They also had to cancel a May exhibit at the Public Library for Union County, and have decided to cancel their annual Member’s Picnic and Art Auction that was to be held in July.
The board of directors also recently had to make “the difficult decision”, Paul said, to cancel the Annual Judged Art Show at the Degenstein Library, which was to be held in August. With so many unknowns about the future, they were unsure if the show’s large opening reception would allow for social distancing. However, Paul said, “The board of directors is exploring alternative ideas for the Annual Judged Art Show and our fall events that could keep our members engaged in art activities.”
The society is in its 41st year. Paul said the non-juried, nonprofit organization “offers its members support, camaraderie, and the opportunity to show their art.
“One of our main goals is to educate our members and the public about art,” Paul said.
The society boasts approximately 100 members who reside throughout the Susquehanna Valley and as far away as Maryland and Florida.