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Arts & Extras: Taubman takes Sidewalk Art Show online

Arts & Extras: Taubman takes Sidewalk Art Show online

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A 6-decade-old summer tradition in Roanoke will happen online instead of on sidewalks this weekend.

In converting the Sidewalk Arts Show, now in its 62nd year, to an internet-only event, the Taubman Museum of Art has worked out ways to offer art for sale, share demos and even conduct wine and beer tastings.

“The Sidewalk Art Show really has become such a beloved tradition in our community,” said Holly DiGangi, the museum’s deputy director of development. “With us having to cancel the outdoor show, we still felt that commitment to our artists and to the community to try and figure out another solution.”

Social distancing requirements meant to combat spread of the novel coronavirus made managing the outdoor event too unwieldy. For similar reasons, though the Taubman will be open Saturday and Sunday for regular hours, there will be no on-site events tying into the virtual show.

Sponsorships from American National Bank and Trust, Blue Ridge Beverage and LinDor Arts have made the online version of the event possible. “If we didn’t have the commitment from our sponsors, we would really have to think about staff time and all that goes into the logistics of completely pivoting into something totally different that we’ve never done before,” DiGangi said.

The virtual version is scaled down, with about two dozen artists participating in the programming, and about 30 offering art for sale through the museum’s website. (There is overlap between the two groups, but they are not identical.)

The Sidewalk Art Show doubles as a fundraiser for the Taubman, which took a financial hit with the cancellation of the live event. The show normally attracts more than 100 artists. Once the decision to switch to virtual was made, artists’ registration fees were refunded. “We’re not raising nearly as much as we have in years past,” DiGangi said, making the sponsorships even more vital.

For the virtual version of the show, the fundraiser function is fulfilled through sales of pieces that participating artists chose to list on the museum’s site. “Half of the proceeds of each sale goes to the museum, and the other half goes to the artist,” DiGangi said. The art sale has already been posted at shop.taubmanmuseum.org and will remain up through Aug. 31.

As for the programming, participating artists will share demonstrations, studio tours and question-and-answer sessions. Regional artists participating include Staunton painter Leslie Banta, Blacksburg silversmith Rejane Pratelli, Botetourt County artists Brett LaGue and Mark Woodie, and chlorophyll printmaker Robert Schultz.

“We’ve got a really good mix of different types of media,” DiGangi said. “We’ve been working with all the artists, and they’re providing an insider’s look into their studio spaces, their galleries and their homes. Through those, we can get a really intimate experience that we wouldn’t necessarily have been able to provide with the outdoor show, which is a really cool kind of silver lining.”

To minimize technical glitches, the artist studio visits and demos are pre-recorded, as are interludes from Taubman staff highlighting works in the museum’s collection. The videos will be streamed on the museum’s website, Facebook and YouTube pages. Access is free, and no registration is required.

As the chance to engage directly with artists has long been one of the Sidewalk Art Show’s attractions, the Taubman came up with a way to maintain that. “When the artists are airing, those that are featured are going to tune in, and then that way they can answer any questions people have or respond to comments, and so we’ll still keep that interactive feel of a live event, but we can do a bit more production on it,” DiGangi said.

In case you’re wondering how the wine and beer tastings will work out, there’s a bit of a do-it-yourself aspect that requires some legwork. The museum has published a schedule of tastings on its website, a list of participating breweries and wineries and lists of which specific libations will be tasted. To participate, prior to the event, you need to go shopping with that list as a guide. Needless to say, organizers don’t expect you to participate in every single tasting.

The tasting videos, which are also pre-recorded, will be led by owners, managers and head brewers of the various companies, which include Beliveau Farm Winery, Big Lick Brewing Co., Chateau Morrisette, Three Notch’d Brewery & Craft Kitchen, Barboursville Vineyard and Beale’s Beer.

DiGangi said the advantage to this arrangement is that during tastings at these various establishments, “You don’t necessarily have the person who started the company and hand-selected and made the beer on site with you to give you the tasting notes.”

As with the artists, representatives from the participating wineries and breweries will be available to respond to comments and answer questions.

Taubman staff have noticed participation from all over the country in the museum’s previous streaming events. “It almost turns it into a national conversation, as opposed to just within our region,” DiGangi said.

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Mike Allen covers government happenings in Franklin County and Botetourt County for The Roanoke Times and also writes the weekly Arts & Extras column.

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