Gallery 221 in Tampa uses hybrid means to stay active, relevant to the community

As we near the end of August, Florida schools are either preparing to be in session or have already started their journey into a pending fall semester. Despite the unknowns, collegiate art departments have been able to quickly habituate themselves to the changing educational landscape. Sure, many institutions have been providing online content for the past few months, but Gallery [email protected] has pushed the boundaries of their respective duties to stick to their commitment of serving the community by making arts and culture accessible to everyone.
 
Since schools closed in March, Gallery 221 had to immediately shift their schedule as they were preparing for the second half of their Spring gallery schedule, which included the opening of Dominique Labauvie’s solo exhibition “Warm Up: In Tandem,” which was originally set for an opening of March 25, and their annual high school scholarship exhibition.
 
All of the high school artwork was set out and ready to install after Spring Break.

"We had just finished installing Labauvie’s work, which was scheduled to open the day we got back,'' explains Amanda Poss, the Gallery Director of Gallery 221. "Once we knew by the end of the week that classes were shifting, we had to manage those exhibitions first. The high school exhibition has scholarship stakes behind it, since these students might not have scholarships to attend HCC. Emiliano Settecasi, the Assistant Technician at Gallery 221, and I took photos of all the works -- which is well over 100. Everyone was very supportive, since everyone was on that surreal boat. ... Everything got to continue, but in a different version than we anticipated.”
 
While Gallery 221 produced virtual opening receptions and artists talks for their planned exhibitions, they were also creating artist-made tutorials covering everything from the concepts behind the artist’s practice to techniques they use to make their works. What is particularly noteworthy is the breadth of materials and skills covered, from printmaking to even stitching—with the focus on hand-made craft and meditative processes no doubt situationally influenced.
 
“All of the artists we selected for our tutorials have some connection to HCC galleries, whether they have exhibited with us or given artist talks. We invited the artists that used diverse processes that could be recreated from home and that had some relationship to their own bodies of work,” Poss says. “We gave them quite a bit of creative freedom to do whatever they wanted in this moment. One of our artists who completed a tutorial, April Hartley, talks about stitching as an intimate process, something that perhaps is comforting, familiar, and rooted in tradition. Going through quarantine, they are in this shared experience with everyone else, but it was interesting to see artists returning to processes that are familiar as well.”
 
You’ll also notice while browsing Gallery 221’s tutorial library that many are even subtitled, courtesy of Settecasi.
 
“With videos under 15 minutes, it was important to us to take the extra step to make these accessible and allow people to engage with videos even if they can’t hear. This summer, Settecasi really transitioned into becoming a video editor and producer, which is not in his job description, but as a team, we knew we wanted to keep adding to cultural value to our community. He is an incredible asset to the college and the community as an artist.”
 
Classes resumed at HCC on Monday, Aug. 17, but in a different way than expected. Taking a hybrid approach, only 15% of classes will be face-to-face while the rest are continuing online to reduce the volume of students on campus at any given time. This shift will also affect the gallery, which will be open Monday-Friday by appointment only for up to 4 people at a time for a maximum of a 30-minute visit to ensure safe physical distancing within smaller gallery spaces.
 
“The gallery is taking a hybrid approach with an emphasis on the virtual since this is how we can maintain safe interactions. We will still have artists' lectures via Zoom, we’ll have increased presence for our exhibitions on social media. We’re also working on a virtual exploration option where you can click a link and do a photo tour online, so exhibitions will have a physical presence but the dissemination will be primarily virtual,” Poss says. “Our goal is to still be a viable resource for the community.”
 

Read more articles by Caitlin Albritton.

Caitlin Albritton is a freelance writer based in Tampa with a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and a MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. When she's not looking at art throughout town, she can be found making it. You can keep up with her visual art on Instagram @caitlinalbritton or on her website. Visit her recent line of inlay “wearable paintings.”
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