The cancellations of spring art shows like Birmingham’s Magic City Art Connection due to COVID-19 is taking away anticipated and much-needed income from artists.
In hopes of making up some of those losses, MCAC is going virtual this year and although artists won’t be at Linn Park this weekend showcasing their latest work, they will be accessible online for you to buy directly from them.
“Because of the cancellation, we have been quickly moving to see how we can continue our mission to connect artists locally with collectors here in Birmingham and in the region,” said Alex Kunzman, marketing director for MCAC. “We’ve come with a couple of initiatives that we can continue making that connection for our artists.”
The first initiative will be the Magic City Art Connection Virtual. Starting at 6 a.m. Friday, April 24, art seekers can log on to the virtual marketplace and shop from the various artists. While the actual MCAC was set to run through this weekend for its 37th year, MCAC virtual will keep going until 11 p.m. May 3.
The good news for shoppers is that artists have lots of art to sell. The bad news for artists is they have lots of art to sell.
“They’ve been probably making work since this winter preparing for the spring season,” Kunzman said. “We’re just one show that these artists are probably doing. There have been cancellations all over the place, so that’s why we felt it was very important to really think about how we could support the artists not only at this time in the spring, but we’re also looking forward to the fall.”
Birmingham photographer George Elliott said the Magic City Art Connection is his biggest show every year and his first thought when he heard it was canceled was “no revenue.”
“I’ll tell you what, artists are just like the rest of the crew that’s suffering from no income because they started canceling art shows right and left just as soon as this thing happened,” Elliott said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elliott has been doing photography for 15 years. He started out primarily shooting coastal landscapes but now does a great variety of subjects. Of late, he has begun framing his photos in old windows and doors to create compositions from multiple photographs.
Elliott said setting up his MCAC Virtual storefront was easy and he is hopeful those who supported the physical show for years will show up online this year.
“I think that it’s going to work fine because a lot of people are sitting around quarantined,” he said. “A lot of the people who would normally come to the art show anyway are looking for something to do. This way they can have longer to linger over the artwork of each of the artists. So, I think it’s going to be a good thing.”
Birmingham metal and ceramics artist Emily Meisler was anticipating MCAC more than most for very good reason – it was going to be her first festival.
“I was definitely looking forward to kind of seeing how all of this worked with a physical festival,” she said. “It will be interesting to see how it translates to the virtual festival.”
Still, Meisler, whose work focuses on the interplay between nature and industry, is eager to offer her art to MCAC Virtual patrons.
“I’m very excited. It’s a great way to connect with people and to get everyone’s artwork out there,” she said. “I’ve been working on this for several months now, working on a lot of things to have for the show. I have a pretty good mix of works ready for this.”
Kunzman said every art medium will be represented on MCAC Virtual with a wide range of price points.
“We really encourage people to go on and explore in this time when we’re all social distancing at home,” he said. “It will be a little bit of entertainment to see all of the great works that these artists have been creating, see what might be great for your collection at home or the office.”
Like Elliott and Meisler, Kunzman said the reaction from the artists has been positive.
“There is great excitement that there is a platform that they can get their work out to during this time of social distancing and with all of the cancellations that have been happening in their world,” he said.
In addition to the artist interaction, lost from this year’s actual MCAC will be the Imagination Festival children’s workshop, the Corks & Chefs food and drink tasting event and live music and dance.
However, there is a plan to bring at least most of that back later this year with an expanded, hybrid Moss Rock Festival and MCAC, assuming the Moss Rock Festival is still able to take place at The Preserve in Hoover Nov. 7-8.
“There will be this sort of hybrid festival going on this year at Moss Rock,” Kunzman said. “We’re toying around with the name ‘Moss Magic’ for this new hybrid year and it should really be the best of both festivals that visitors are going to be able to experience.”
Kunzman said you can follow MCAC on social media to see profiles of the different artists selling on MCAC Virtual this weekend. That will allow you to know which artists you want to visit early to get first pick when they go live Friday morning.
For artists like Elliott, he is optimistic the virtual experience will be a real success.
“I’m really looking forward to participating in it,” he said. “I hope that the people will come out and use it. It’s just a good, novel way to do it during this time of great difficulty that we’re going through.”