First Friday Artists Share What It’s Like to Shelter in Place: Part 1


Photo courtesy of Suzie Thomas of This Tiny Ocean. Find her on Instagram @thistinyocean.

By: Molly Ressler

While artists by nature spend much of their time creating alone, the resulting art is intended to spark conversations, challenge assumptions, and bring joy to the greater community. They often create because they believe in the power of art to connect and heal. “[Artists] are talking about what’s happening in the world and how to create change,” says Radius Gallery Director Ann Hazels, “They’re using their platform to better our world.” 

Creative expression is also personal. It reveals the interior life of the artist in a way that’s both vulnerable and incredibly powerful. “[As an artist,] you're trying to communicate on some deep soul level with other people through your art,” says Beth Shields, Gallery 125 founder and artist.  

As all of Santa Cruz County shelters in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, artists no longer have those public spaces and events that allow them to step out of their studios, interact directly with the community, and share their art. The spontaneous interactions allowed by community events like First Friday spark inspiration, cultivate friendships, and foster innovation in the art world and beyond. While we’re deeply saddened that our in-person First Friday events are on hiatus for the time being, we’re also grateful for online platforms like Instagram that can allow us to still virtually connect. For the month of April, we’re hosting Virtual First Fridays every Friday on our Instagram channel. 

As we watch artists give live demos and studio tours on Instagram, we wondered how the shelter in place order has impacted their work and personal life and how they think it will impact the artist community as a whole. Below, we hear what two of the artists who participated in Friday, April 3rd’s virtual event had to say. 

Stay tuned for responses from artists from every virtual First Friday event, and make sure you follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more information on our virtual events and a full list of the upcoming artists. 

Donna Theresa - Pastel Fine Artist

How has your life changed since the shelter in place order took effect?   

My life is much the same. Being an artist, I spend a lot of time alone painting in my studio. However, I am missing my ballet classes and piano and french lessons. Currently, I am participating in the #create30challenge for the month of April. Inspired by artist Alain Picard, I am painting one completed painting a day for the month. My medium is soft pastel.

What's the worst thing for you personally about sheltering in place and how do you deal?  

I think not going to my classes and having a structured week has been a little bothersome. I sleep too much. I don't take enough time to dress nicely and do self care…

What's the best thing about sheltering in place?  

Having my kids back from college.  It was a little adjustment for all of us, but it's a full house full of fun!

Do you find that you're expressing yourself more online during the shelter-in-place order? If so, how? 

I post regularly on Facebook and IG and with my 30 paintings in 30 days, I am posting quite a bit.  I have an online website that I post to everyday: donnatheresafineart.com

How can the community support your work?

Go to my website and support my art with a purchase. My pieces are all original and affordable! Support local artists!

Do you think COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on the artist community? If so, how?   

I think in the immediate aftermath of this pandemic, life will be different in that we will be much more careful about being together. I really don't think life will be carefree again until a vaccine is developed and immunity is acquired. As far as the artist community here in S.C., Open Studios 2020 may or may not happen, which will be a big loss for us artists if it doesn't happen. Most artists make their most income at Open Studios.

Find Donna’s art on her website, donnatheresafineart.com, or on Instagram @donna.theresa.art

Jeff Arnett - Wood, Bronze, and Stone Sculptor

How has your life changed since the shelter in place order took effect?   

Well, since I mostly work in my garage studio, I can get a lot of work done but with neighbors always home, my use of power tools is limited.  I have a rock garden behind a friend's house in Watsonville but I'm avoiding it to be a good scout. Fortunately, I can still get out for daily runs.  So I'm one of the lucky ones.

What's the worst thing for you personally about sheltering in place and how do you deal?  

Well, I miss my stoner friends who meet once a week in my studio to carve stone.  But other than missing the rock garden, where I can make lots of noise and dust, I'm mostly good.

What's the best thing about sheltering in place?  

Since I've been doing it informally since my retirement from UCSC, I'm just doing it for a bigger purpose now.

Do you find that you're expressing yourself more online during the shelter-in-place order? If so, how?  

Yes, but that's partly because all the shows I'd be in are cancelling or postponing.  I did set-up an Instagram account but since I'm not very tech savvy, it's a stretch. Virtual exhibits seem to be the only way to show art these days.

How can the community support your work?  

While I think art is essential, especially to my well-being, folks have more pressing concerns these days.  The art will survive the virus but people come first.

Do you think COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on the artist community? If so, how?   

I think online galleries will continue to grow since brick and mortar galleries have been struggling even before the corona virus crisis.  And more artists may try to focus on online exposure and sales. For sculpture, it's tougher to really appreciate the work without seeing it in person.

Find Jeff’s art on his website, http://www.jeffarnettsculpture.com, and on Instagram @jeffarnett3

Up next, hear from our April 10 Virtual First Friday artists. Subscribe to our newsletter to ensure you stay in the loop. 

Molly Ressler is a writer and content marketing consultant based in Santa Cruz. She lives with her husband, daughter, and pup in Seabright and loves sharing her community’s vibrant culture through her writing.