The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Contemporary Art Show certainly has a rich history in the City of Brotherly Love. For more than four decades, the prestigious event has showcased some of the finest art in a variety of mediums.
And although this year’s event looks a little different, its sentiment is still the same.
“Philadelphia is a great place for art and always welcomes artists,” show manager Nancy O’Meara said.
The 44th annual Contemporary Art Show will take place Friday, Nov. 6 through Sunday, Nov. 8. But like many events amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, this year’s festivities have been transformed to a virtual platform. The art show will be held online, and organizers have ensured that attendees will still be able to embrace the unique artwork digitally and also interact with the artists themselves.
“It’s time to pivot, learn new things. It’s been very interesting,” said O’Meara. “We did research on different platforms, and agreed to stay with the website. We wanted to make it more engaging for the audience, like they would if they were actually at the show.”
Art enthusiasts can view pictures of the artists’ creations, view pre-recorded videos and purchase artwork. They can also click on a specific artist and interact directly via Zoom, chat text or Facetime. Artists will be available to discuss their work and show their art up close—creating a new way of thinking and processing artwork virtually.
“A lot of the artists are expanding their virtual reach,” O’Meara explained. “This is the year of the artists. We are focusing on the artists and keeping art alive.”
This year’s event will showcase the work of approximately 160 artists, including wood artist Phil Gautreau, fiber artist Amy Gillespie and metal and jewelry artist Stacey Lee Webber. The participating artists were selected through a competitive jury process with more than 600 applicants. All work will be available to purchase.
“The Philly show is definitely my favorite. It’s really a high end, well-designed show with amazing artists,” said Webber, a Frankford resident who has participated in the annual art show for seven years. “I love interacting with customers. A lot of people you see every year become friends.”
Show chair Robin Blumenfeld Switzenbaum emphasized that this year’s event—although virtual—was designed to focus on the artists and create an interactive experience despite obvious restrictions due to the pandemic. Each artist page includes a welcome video and information on various ways that attendees can connect with the artists.
“I’m looking forward to our artists having the opportunity to sell their work. These artists work so hard at what they do,” she said. “I’m also hoping to get a much wider audience this year because it’s held virtually. The other goal is to raise money for the Philadelphia Museum of Art.”
Admission to the virtual event is free, but a $10 donation is requested to help fund the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Funds raised will be used to aid education and publication projects and also to purchase craft objects for the museum’s permanent collection. Proceeds from past events have made it possible to purchase state-of-the-art equipment and contributed to renovations to the museum’s infrastructure and galleries.
Switching to a virtual front for this year’s event is certainly a new approach for the artists, many of whom create work that is best appreciated when seen in person. The digital format has forced them to adapt to a new way of sharing creations, giving artists an opportunity for even more innovation.
“I am doing things a little differently to prepare for an all-virtual show. Most of that centers around making the products that I make as attractive as possible for someone who can’t see them in person,” explained Gautreau, a woodworker based in Brooklyn, New York, who has participated in the event for the past 6 years. “I am making sure the product photography is of the highest quality so people can make a selection without having that tactile experience, without picking up a wood bowl or serving board and falling in love with it at the show.
“I’m excited about the show as always,” he continued. “I consider myself very blessed to have been selected — it’s very flattering because you wait patiently and hope your work is competitive with the other artists. It’s a very prestigious show. It’s considered among artists to be one of the best in the U.S.”
For more information, visit www.PMACraftShow.org. Metro and Schneps Media will host three virtual meet and greet events with artists Phil Gautreau (Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 11 a.m.), Amy Gillespie (Thursday, Oct. 29, at 2 p.m.) and Stacey Lee Webber (Thursday, Nov. 5, at 5:30 p.m.). To register for one or all of the artist meet and greets, visit www.SchnepsMedia.com/webinars