Written by Executive Director, Rina Thaler
I have always considered myself an optimistic person, the kind of person who looks at the glass as “half full.” Over the past 8 weeks or so, as the world has been turned upside down, my optimism has been severely tested and even rocked to the core.
It is lucky that I have not had much time to process this new reality. The pandemic hit just as we wrapped up our 4th Annual Ocean City Film Festival. Going from the euphoria of the festival to the realization that we would have to shut our doors and shelter at home was a huge blow. I knew how important our work was and that art could help people deal with their stress, express their frustration, and uplift them. The challenge was how to deliver our mission while our building remained shut down.
Fortunately, we have built a great team of dedicated board and staff members, paired with an engaged membership. The past two months have been a frenzy of activity. From applying for grants and loans and dealing with budgets that are moving targets to creating new online exhibits, classes and events, this time has been quite a whirlwind. My technology capabilities have been stretched to the limit as we work with the Worcester County Board of Education to provide art supplies to children in need who are learning online, Atlantic General Hospital to send virtual “hugging hearts” to frontline medical staff, and our board to create a video explaining our newly established COVID-19 Emergency Operating Fund.
The optimist in me says there are some positives that have come out of this crazy situation.
We have found new ways to connect online through exhibits, classes, film streaming, and events like virtual Lunch & Learns and Happy Hours. Our branding effort has a produced a clean contemporary logo that will bring us into the future. Our Art-a-Day posts on social media, this blog, and story time have introduced us to new audiences. We have revised our website so that our current activities are easily found on the homepage. It has been so validating to see our members, who have their own personal challenges, respond to our appeal to help keep us operational.
In my personal life, I feel fortunate that my family is healthy. I have discovered that my groceries can be brought right to my door via Instacart and my house can be vacuumed by a robot. I learned how to hang out on Google, grow my own fresh herbs, and start lettuce from cutoff Romaine tops. I have cleaned out junk draws and closets and gone through old photo albums. We celebrated a milestone wedding anniversary, Passover, and birthdays with out-of-town family and friends on Zoom.
While it has been so stressful worrying about my mom who lives in an assisted living facility, trying to keep her spirits up, it has also been a blessing that my daughter, her boyfriend and their dog have been with us, spending time cooking great meals, playing board games and watching movies together. I have also gotten great pleasure from participating in the online classes and drop-in painting sessions from the Art League. It has given me a chance to connect with other artists and helped me remember why I do the work each day. Most recently, I have been asked to serve on the task force to help lead Maryland arts organizations into recovery, and that has also given me much to concentrate on. So while this new normal has been unsettling, the optimist in me says – at least it hasn’t been boring!