September 28, 2021

New Exhibition Socially Distanced Opens in Center Space

Think about how your social behavior has changed since March 2020. If you are like most, you have spent more time around your house, and you think twice about going to a crowded restaurant, or even visiting a friend’s house. Chances are, you haven’t invited too many people over, and regardless of whether you wear a mask at the grocery store now, I bet you did for a while. 

COVID-19 has changed our behaviors, and that is something that scientists like to research.

Roddy MacInnes, Self-portrait Distanced, 24 by 40 inches, archival inkjet print.

Socially Distanced, a new exhibition from Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation and Arizona State University’s The Cooperation in the Apocalypse research team, explores the effects of distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic through the visual arts. It highlights the work of 17 artists from Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico whose works reflect empathy and compassion for others and reveal coping strategies. 

“In this exhibition, you can see how connected our experiences have been while isolating,” said Laura Hales, curator of learning and innovation at Scottsdale Arts. “This work encompasses feelings of vulnerability, fear, hope, and even humor that I think everyone can relate to.”

The exhibition opened on Friday, September 24, 2021, in the Center Space gallery at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts to a socially-distanced room of artists, arts lovers, family, and friends. Photo: Scottsdale Arts  

This exhibition was co-curated with Pamela Winfrey of The Cooperation in the Apocalypse research team at ASU. This group uses science and scholarship to understand human behavior in times of crisis. Its current research explores how views of cooperation and perceived interdependence have changed and what the long-term effects will be from this time of isolation. 

Hales said artists in this exhibition have reflected some of the team’s findings in their work. A common thread running through the art is a deep concern for others and a desire to help themselves and others find hope. Winfrey said the artworks express myriad ways people have been impacted and exhibits how they have created resilient strategies for psychological survival. 

More than just an exhibition, Socially Distanced is an opportunity to contribute to research. Each week the question will change, and the answers will be tallied and shared with ASU. Photo: Scottsdale Arts 

“I believe that the public will be able to see themselves within these artworks. They are funny, aesthetic, and poetic—all methods for dealing with unimaginable grief and shock. These artists give us a window into the various ways that we can move forward while paving new ways to think about this new world that we now must live in.” 

Pamela Winfrey, co-curator and ASU researcher with The Cooperation in the Apocalypse

Among those artists is Patricia Sannit, who has created safe opportunities for the arts to remain visible to the public throughout the pandemic. The Phoenix-based sculptor’s contribution to the exhibition is Many Hands (hold me), a ceramics installation that resulted from an artmaking event in her backyard. She invited participants over to create clay hands, and while working, they shared personal stories, connected, and collaborated.

Patricia Sannit, Many Hands (hold me), 2021, 48 by 48 by 24 inches, fired clay.

Sannit said she often thinks about the questions of whether art can heal, effect change, and make the world a better place. 

“I do believe that art has the potency to reanimate a sense of limitless potential, and potential brings hope,” Sannit said. “I am an optimist and a believer in our species’ better impulses. I hope that this exhibition will prove that all was not lost during this dark and stressful time. Historically, great art, innovation, and creative breakthroughs have emerged from the darkest times in history. I hope that this will once again prove true.” 

Socially Distanced runs through January 9, 2022, and is open to the public Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Sundays from noon – 6:00 p.m., and during most evening performances.

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