When the pandemic struck Washington State, like many artists, all of the revenue streams I depend on came to a screeching halt.
Drawing classes and teaching gigs were canceled. The two galleries that represent my work were shuttered immediately. The public art project I was just getting off the ground has been suspended indefinitely. The artist residency at Rocky Neck I was looking forward to in July was postponed until next year. Suddenly, there was no revenue on the horizon and very little cushion. It was time to get creative, like, really creative.
The true gift of this surreal time has turned out to be time itself. There is more flexibility in the structure of my days for studio work, project research, and time in nature. I have begun writing and sketching more, and worrying less. Last week, I decided that my postponed residency actually begins now. I have started a new body of site-specific work based on my speculations and assumptions about what Rocky Neck will be, to be reconciled next year, by direct experience of the place itself.
Most surprisingly, I have been more generative in the past two months than I have been in the past two years. Is it because no one is watching? Is it because I’m making this work for me alone? Or is it simply due to the abundance of unfettered hours to chase inspiration? My work is pivoting in new directions. It feels riskier and less resolved. I’m less concerned with consistency and more driven to experiment. And that all feels really, really good.
On a pragmatic level, I have launched a new website that is more closely tied to the creative process instead of just focusing on the finished work. Through a local “Spend-a-Ben” economic stimulus program here in the Methow Valley, I opened an Etsy store to sell some small prints and artworks. Sales have been surprisingly good. I continue to apply for grants, loans, unemployment support, and every sort of artist relief program under the sun. In terms of how this all will pencil out, who knows!?!
Perri Howard is a multi-disciplinary artist based at TwispWorks in the Methow Valley. Originally from Marblehead, Massachusetts, Perri spent her undergraduate years at the Evergreen State College and the University of Washington. She received her MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2001. In addition to her studio works and sound performances, Perri sets a powerful stage for community voices through public artworks, cultural placemaking, and community-based art projects. Perri is a Fulbright Scholar and she has completed residencies in Portugal, India, Italy, Brazil, and, most recently, New Brunswick, Canada at the Kingsbrae International Residency for the Arts. Perri serves on the University of Washington School of Art Advisory Board and is President of the TwispWorks Foundation. Her favorite instrument is a handheld compass. Perri received an Artist Trust Fellowship in 2006 and a GAP Award in 2004.