Artistic inspiration can come from many places, maybe even a pandemic.

Now, the Burke Arts Council wants to put creations from the COVID-19 stay-at-home order on display — when it’s safe to do so.

The council is asking artists who have kept creating through the “Great Lockdown of 2020” to submit their work for an exhibition that hopes to go on display in October, according to a press release from the council.

Art of all mediums will be accepted for the exhibit, titled “Shelter,” as long as they were made or conceived during the lockdown.

Deborah Jones, executive director for the Arts Council, said the idea was sparked by Courtney Long, professional craft coordinator at Western Piedmont Community College.

Long, who teaches pottery and clay sculpture at WPCC, got curious of what other artists were doing after coming up with a feasible at-home project for her students.

“When the COVID-19 crisis happened, we went to only online courses,” Long said. “I had to figure out a way for my students to work on form and additive process and I needed to figure out a way for them to be able to practice formal elements of art that they could apply to clay.”

She said she researched what other artists were doing and decided to have her students make sculptures out of paper, cardboard and tape.

“In order to show solidarity with my students, I did the assignment too,” Long said. “As a clay artist, I found it really inspiring to work form out in this less expensive material. For me, it became a way of sketching three dimensionally before I took the more expensive material, clay ... and used it.”

The assignment taught her a lot, and she said she started to wonder what other artists are doing at home with limited access to their normal materials and studios.

“You’re always an artist, you’re always creating,” Long said. “I was just curious what people were doing and how they were reacting to the pandemic in their work.”

She said she’s curious if artists are responding to the pandemic through their work, or if they’re using their extra free time to experiment with new ideas.

“I’m working on animals right now,” Long said. “I’m working on horses, and rabbits. So I’ve made these large sculptures that look like them just out of paper and tape.”

Being able to try out new materials and techniques for her artwork has been exciting between working full time at WPCC.

“On the weekends, I could have just gone back to my studio and mass produced the same thing that I’ve always made,” she said. “I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to just use this time to explore ideas that have kind of constantly been on the back burner so to speak because I’ve had pottery sales, I have galleries that represent me. There’s a specific body of work that they expect me to produce and sell.”

With galleries closed because of the pandemic, Long said she has been able to go back through her sketchbook and bring some of her ideas to life and play around with new ways to create.

“I’m inspired by that, and watching that transformation take place,” Long said. “If you’re trying to change your work, and you’re trying to work on something new, sometimes you have to really change, go in a completely different direction, and then come back. It’s really the only way to kind of hit the reset button.”

For artists out there who might be considering a submission for the gallery, Long suggested using the time to observe and discover new ideas.

“We’re seeking out artists not to be submitting maybe what they’ve always done, but to really just use this time to create something new and challenge themselves with something,” Long said. Not worried about whether or not they’re going to fail, don’t be discouraged. Just try something new and just use this time to discover and invent and observe and think about this situation.”

Submissions for the exhibit are due by July 1. Artists must be 18-years-old or older, and there is a three submission maximum. Two dimensional artwork must be framed using wire for hanging. Visit www.burkearts.org for more information and for the submission form.

Chrissy Murphy is a staff writer and can be reached at cmurphy@morganton.com or at 828-432-8941. Follow @cmurphyMNH on Twitter.

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