Director's Message: Fall 2020

Photo of Shirley MadillIt has been over six months since the Gallery closed in mid-March due to COVID-19, and over three months since we reopened in mid-June. During this challenging time, art museums have had to re-calibrate their purpose and find new ways to reach their audiences. For the team at KWAG, this has meant bringing workshops, talks and tours into the digital realm, maintaining the exhibition program, and taking time to strategize for the future.

This crisis has raised questions for us, many pertaining to our continued relevance in our community. Although running a public art gallery with diminished attendance and added safety precautions is costly, and the decisions involved are difficult, our core purpose is to serve the public. Our mission of connecting people and ideas through art remains a priority.

Advocates have long claimed that museums are essential to a functioning society. For that claim to have any merit, we need to demonstrate this commitment in real time—by being at the front of the line in rebooting activity. At KWAG, we know we won’t be back to normal any time soon, but that is not a bad thing. To emerge stronger and be more resilient, we need to weather the storm and invite its challenges to shift our thinking and inspire new ways of being.  There is no better time than now. 

There has been pressure for art museums to make critical changes for some time, and, while alarming, COVID-19 might be the impetus needed to kickstart those changes. We have an opportunity to look and think further ahead and emerge from this moment with the evolved, healthy and flexible outlook needed to continue sharing knowledge in a post-pandemic world. COVID-19 offers the potential for us to reveal our inner workings and potentially share much more with our virtual visitors.

KWAG is pursuing a future program for our 2020-21 season that takes a hybrid format, consisting of online and on-site programs on our premises and in the community. We sustained our commitments to artists and their exhibitions during the summer and are proud to feature the timely and significant exhibition Deanna Bowen: Black Drones in the Hive as the cornerstone of our fall programming.

Art museums provide a haven in times of trauma and disruption. We are in the midst of a pandemic laden with anxiety. The Gallery offers people a safe place to visit and a reprieve from feelings of isolation. We are back – and in a way, we never left. We continue to serve as a hub of artistic engagement through education, information-sharing, and collective reflection. We encourage curiosity and cultivate a sense of belonging. Rarely have we needed these things more than now.

As we eye the future beyond the pandemic, we can seize an opportunity to stay true to our essential values. We continue to work with our members and community to surmount this crisis. We will be the better for it.