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Artists who normally host visitors now have to navigate technology for Portland Open Studios.

COURTESY PHOTO - Kelly Williams is one of the Portland Open Studios artists who engages people virtually.It's not a news flash that artists have struggled during the era of COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions, and the Portland Open Studios pivoted to help them adjust to the proverbial new normal.

Many of the artists involved haven't been on Instagram, haven't set up video for their websites and haven't engaged followers online. Many of them are older and used to showing their work at festivals and galleries, meeting with people in person. Kirista Trask, the new Portland Open Studios president, and the event's board of directors set out to change artist marketing and art shows into a more virtual experience.

Some 100 artists usually open their doors for visitors during Portland Open Studios. Now, they hope visitors open their browsers and find websites and the Portland Open Studios Instagram account, Saturday to Sunday Oct. 10-11 and Oct. 17-18.

"We're focusing on what we can teach artists that would benefit them long term," said Trask, an abstract mixed media artist who lived in Portland and who now lives and works in Astoria.

COURTESY PHOTO - Kirista Trask has helped Portland Open Studios artists adapt with Instagram and online content.About 90 artists are taking part in some capacity, with more than half wholeheartedly going the virtual route with training sessions and Instagram conversations and presentations. Portland Open Studios will entail linking websites to artists for sales, and artists will engage audiences with three-minute art shows on video and then 30-minute conversations on Instagram Live (10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day).

There'll be clickable posts to individual websites on Instagram and at www.portlandopenstudios.com.

Trask has emphasized that such a technology component for an artist is imperative moving forward in this day and age.

"We're giving our artists tools that will allow them to increase an audience," Trask said. "I own an art gallery and opened it during COVID-19 (Cambium Gallery, Astoria) … people still need a place to engage with their artwork. But, everything we do physically we can do online. … Portland Open Studios have lots of artists that aren't Instagram-based, some of them don't have Internet shops."

Of the 54 artists involved, Trask estimated that 70% needed some guidance and about 20% didn't have an online shop.

"Artists run the risk that when the economy is in a downturn, art is the first thing you don't buy or invest in," Trask said. "COVID-19 is drastically affecting [the] arts. We can help them stay as relevant as possible."

Artists are making and plan to share, predictably, COVID-19-related artworks.

Other festivals, such as Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts and Art in the Pearl, also went the virtual route. Of course, it opens up, theoretically, a worldwide audience.

Moving forward, "we'll probably do a hybrid event," Trask said. "What we saw as beneficial was making of videos. We're hoping videos and stuff will allow people to see more studios than at any time before."

The Portland Open Studios folks have lauded Trask for her leadership.

"Kirista has been a dynamic and energizing leader in the arts community this year," said Leah Kohlenberg, board chairperson.


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