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"Art of Our Time" Exhibition Attracts Artists from Across the Country

Art of Our Time

August 4, 2020

I am fortunate to have a front row seat to creativity every day at my job. I see it in the 50-plus artists we work with, the gallery’s innovative staff and the resourceful business owners of Historic Valley Junction in Greater Des Moines (DSM).

As life started to shift in mid-March, after the initial shock wore off, I noticed a new rumbling of creativity all around. This creativity was being demonstrated in many forms: problem-solving, humor, expression, connecting to others.

This creativity was being cultivated for a multitude of purposes. Small businesses coming up with new approaches to boost revenue. Corporations figuring out how to best help their employees. Religious leaders solving the problem of connecting to their communities. Homebound kids expressing themselves in every which way.

A lot has happened since March. (That might be the most obvious statement ever made…) People are weary, angry, scared. But that positive creative force is present! You might have to dig a little deeper for it, but it’s there.

Art of Our Time Work

Siobhan Spain, the executive director of Mainframe Studios, has been digging. And she handed shovels to Olson-Larsen Galleries and Yellow Door Gallery. Siobhan reached out to me several weeks ago with an idea. After a fun and fervent Zoom meeting with Alyss Vernon, Olson-Larsen manager, and I, Siobhan also reached out to Emily Kessinger to get Yellow Door Gallery on board. Then we all got to work.

Artist Support

We each came up with lists of artists, both local and from across the globe. We asked them if they would participate in an exhibition to benefit organizations that help people. And benefit themselves. Because making a living by making art — while never easy — is especially challenging right now. Artists began responding right away.

Art of Our Time CarAnd here we are with “Art of Our Time”, a benefit art exhibition opening at Mainframe Studios on August 7. The exhibition benefits Oakridge Neighborhood Services, which has been serving the area’s most vulnerable residents by providing for the basic need of safe, affordable housing for over 50 years, and Community Support Advocates with its award-winning Momentum Art Program that provides transformational support to artists with disabilities and mental illnesses.

The list of committed artists includes Alexandre Arrechea, Susan Chrysler White, Jeanine Coupe Ryding, Kim Dingle, Jennifer Drinkwater, Laurel Farrin, Andrea Ferrigno, Benjamin Gardner, Tatiana Giacinti, Jen P. Harris, Courtney Kenny Porto, Kathranne Knight, Dennis Koch, Jacob Kuperman, Bill Luchsinger, Robert Moore, Margo Z. Nahas, Hugo Nakashima-Brown, Oyoram, Catherine Reinhart, Gyan Shrosbee, Jim Shrosbee, Erin Shirreff, Annick Sjobakken, Joe Sola, Josh Sorrell, Molly Spain, Mary Ann Strandell, Karen Strohbeen, Laura Travnicek, Olivia Valentine and Jay Vigon.Art of Our Time Illustration

The exhibition will open on Friday, August 7, marking the reopening of Mainframe’s popular First Friday event. Timed entry reservations and masks are required to attend. The exhibition is simultaneously being shown online. Those interested in purchasing works or attending the event can visit artofourtime.org for more information.

Thank you to Hannah Sung / Meow Yo Face, a Des Moines artist, for creating a pitch perfect logo. We extend our gratitude to the Polk County Board of Supervisors for their support.

The other positive forces I noted in March were those of solidarity and collaboration. Historic Valley Junction business owners checking in on each other with a phone call. A strong push to support small businesses as the mandated closings started rolling in. Free webinars were put on almost immediately by local organizations to help businesses large and small navigate uncharted waters.

“Art of Our Time” is a harmonious meld of creativity and collaboration in a dissonant time. I hope the harmony travels through the DSM community and beyond. As Siobhan succinctly writes, the goal of the exhibition is “to help demonstrate the fact that we’re all in this together, and that artists can play a vital role in our nation’s resiliency when given the opportunity.”

You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates as well. See more on COVID-19 here.

Images used in this post include:

  • Cruiser by Hugo Nakashima-Brown's, oil on Korean paper (7" x 12.5")
  • I Can't Breathe by Annick Sjobakken, photographic print (20" x 16")
  • white coke, black coke by Joe Sola, prismacolor and graphite on paper (14" x17")
Susan Watts

Susan Watts owns Olson-Larsen Galleries, an art gallery and custom frame shop in Historic Valley Junction. She is an active member of the local arts and business communities and serves on the Community Support Advocates board of directors. Susan holds a B.A. with honors in art history and journalism from the University of Iowa.