Arts at the Palace in Hamilton has been holding a variety of online events via Zoom during COVID-19 to keep the spirit of an arts education alive. Recently, “Art in Fields” brought many together as part of an ongoing series known as the Arts Together In Hamilton Conversations. The series allows artists, artwork and community members to join together virtually and engage in the arts. Executive Director of Arts at the Palace, Elizabeth Douglas, organized the event.
“With Art in Fields, we were trying to offer a meaningful arts experience to the community during the pandemic where we could experience works of art and then discuss it with a group,” Douglas stated.
The event featured two guests, Sayward Schoonmaker and Fox Whitney. Schoonmaker, a multidisciplinary artist and artistic director, gave a presentation on the Stone Quarry Hill Art Park, located in Cazenovia, NY. Schoonmaker’s presentation focused on the background of the Art Park and some of the art pieces situated in the park. The art park aims to use the entire landscape as an art experience for visitors and is open year-round, from dawn till dusk. As Schoonmaker explained, instead of seeing the park as a neutral setting, visitors can see the artwork as a field or view the area itself as an artwork, allowing them to engage using their senses. The park, along with the variety of art featured in it, enables visitors to walk through the land and change its perspective depending on the art they view. Despite the challenges of creating art in the midst of COVID-19, Schoonmaker explained one consequence of the pandemic: the park’s artist in residence program was postponed. But, some art pieces created in 2020 are still open for the public to see.
The Whole Earth Cabinet is an interactive piece on view at the Art Park in which people can take and leave objects within a large cabinet. Some other works focus on the importance of the environment. For instance, Blue Comet, created by Boston-based artist Leah Medin, includes hanging, blue plastic bags that ring environmentalist themes as the plastic waves against the park’s beautiful landscape. 220 Trees Project, an ongoing collaboration between SUNY-ESF Landscape Architecture Graduate Students, Professor Matthew Pitteiger, the United Climate Action Network, Cazenovia Preservation Foundation, volunteers and the Art Park, includes 220 planted saplings of a variety of plant species on the grounds of the park. In addition to being a powerful message about supporting the environment, the project shows how collaborative efforts among different parties can create an impactful project.
Fox Whitney, an interdisciplinary artist based in Seattle, gave a live meditation presentation based on his art piece “Impossible Shades of Green.” The project featured Whitney’s take on the relationship between queerness and the rainbow colors, particularly the color green. Whitney’s meditation session involved asking readers to massage parts of their faces and imagine the color green differently. During the session, Whitney recited a poetic monologue that asked viewers to imagine nature, the color green in different political contexts and the sensations that come along with those scenes.
When asked what her favorite part of the presentation was, Douglas shared her thoughts.
“I loved being transported to the art park in a way that I felt as though I was actually experiencing the landscape and the artworks there. Because of Sayward’s use of sound and video, and Fox’s in-the-moment meditation on his performance, it was truly a multi-media, multi-dimensional experience. I found it deeply moving and inspiring,” Douglas added.
While different aspects of life and leisure have been limited as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, this event showed that people can still enjoy the arts in creative ways. Douglas expressed this sentiment succinctly.
“In good times and challenging times, the arts bring people together from all backgrounds to experience something together. As a community arts organization, this is what we are all about — that sense of welcoming and belonging,” she concluded.