By Alexandria Zine

The resplendence of the art that reposes in the Higgins Art Gallery has encountered many setbacks, due to the pandemic, but the conveyance of wistfulness remains in place through virtual exhibitions on YouTube until MLK day on the 18th of January 2021. The central theme in the gallery is EarthJustice, and the artists’ benefaction transforms nationwide injustices into a vivid string of images to remind one of the obstacles. The repetition of sanitation where the nexus of transmission occurs, such as doorknobs and countertops, may make any creative collaborations retain as much of their vital liberation as possible.   

The EarthJustice collection that is currently being displayed in the Higgins Art Gallery provides a felicitous perspective, as it focuses on the intrigue of the natural parts of life during collective crises. “This collection showcases the professional work of the artists/educators who teach courses at Cape Cod Community College, alongside their invited artist,” as stated on the 4Cs website. Harriet Jerusha Korim, who is an ‘artivist’ (artist and activist) and the co-curator of this gallery, finds that this facet of the Arts Department has preserved the expansion of her passion for the arts. Alongside a co-sponsorship from the artist collection (artpeacemakers.org), her involvement “…is a total labor of love” as opposed to a creative project that provides annuity.

“The pandemic”, said Korim, “has affected my own artistic path immeasurably! (and the path has led more to the kitchen than the studio ;^) In April, capecool had to cancel our main fundraiser, but we granted our annual scholarships and launched a year-long  #CENSUSoftheTREES, rooted in our deepened appreciation of endangered trees and forests. Thanks to forest ecologist Nalini Nadkarni, the slideshow even includes a painting by a tree.” 

Despite the abrupt adjustments for a technological showcase of art, Korim and other artists at 4Cs feel that it has been a “…profoundly rewarding labor of love,” leading to undulations that will spread “…a lot more art (and justice).” Nathalie Ferrier, the Higgins Art Gallery director, has been and continues to keep the art as operable to audiences as possible against the ripples of restraints that COVID-19 has caused. “Whatever influence I’ve had,” said Korim, “has been channeled through the gallery director. For a self-confessed control freak, that has been very hard, but luckily for me (and for the show) the gallery director is brilliant and has excellent judgement.” Sara Ringler, who was a former director of the gallery and has been attached to 4Cs for 28 years (26 years of being solely a professor of Drawing, Design and Printmaking), concurs with Korim’s sentiments toward the show’s extant elements. “Nathalie Ferrier has created a terrific platform to continue the mission of the gallery which is to bring thought provoking exhibitions which enhance creative thinking and reflection.”

EarthJustice gallery aims to memorialize “…art peacemakers’ ’80’s roots in the movements for nuclear disarmament and environmental justice. ‘It is as much a meditation as a cry from the heart and a call to action,’ according to the 4Cs Higgins Art Gallery section.”  This amalgam of art truly commences on October 16th, when a universal invitation will be sent to students and faculty so they may view the pieces and prospectively submit any personal pieces to the collection. Coeval contributors are not the requirement for participation; anyone can contribute to the gallery, be it a young artist or an elderly artist from any location, internationally.

The “Higgins Art Gallery went virtual in March 2020,” said Ferrier. “I had just installed a 4C’s Alumni Group Exhibit. I organized online live gallery talks with the Alumni artists. The online talks/events have been very successful. We had three well attended gallery events in the spring 2020. We just had our first Fall Semester Online EARTH JUSTICE event on September 24th, with about 50 viewers. We welcome students’ questions during and at the end of the events.” To access the YouTube video and other resources, visit www.capecod.edu/higgins/ for guidance.

According to the YouTube video “EARTH JUSTICE Conversations,” which has been available since October 3rd, about 40 artists have been featured in this eclectic art collection. If one would like to access the first virtual exhibition that has been available on YouTube since September 22, 2020, click on ‘Higgins Art Gallery’ beneath the awning with the title ‘Campus Life.’

“Higgins,” said Ferrier, “invited 11 artists/activists to speak during our last online event. Artists reached out to us from Cape Cod, Boston, San Francisco, Portland Oregon, the Midwest and Montana. It was an incredibly moving experience to listen to eleven speakers who were sharing their art and stories while wild raging fires and racial injustice were occuring outside their door. Our first guest artist speaker was 4C’s Alumna Alejandra Cuadra Sanchez connecting with us from Boston.”

 Although digital clarity is ambulant among the vision of 4Cs artists and others, the difficulties of an entirely virtual version of an opportune union of passions are tractable. “We had barely a month, working under the stresses and complications of the pandemic and the height of the tourist season––  to re-imagine, reassemble, expand, re-name and transport the show; but we were also inspired and energized by widespread uprisings for justice, and by the racial, social and ecological “fierce urgency of now.” ” According to Korim, four individuals had to transport all the pieces, and three to execute the installation process in order to complete the show. 

Regarding the complementary “EarthJustice Conversations” YouTube video, Korim feels that there is a forthcoming overlap between different approaches to art in all of their recent videos that are dedicated to environmental justice.  “Translating a direct, personal encounter with live art, theater or music into a remote online experience is a tough challenge for all artists and art-lovers. We were very lucky to have Jennifer Moller’s videography and Ej Mills Brennan’s evocative music bridge a lot of that divide. Of course, the “silver on-lining” of this challenge is the possibility that many more people in the world will have access to art of all kinds that used to be limited to those able or likely to visit museums and galleries or attend theaters and concerts.” This virtual congregation consisted of benefactors from several states, which encompassed the state of California. These videos are yet another avenue to admonish other artists and viewers of the visible danger of environmental and social injustices in the world, as well as a chance to share the development of particular pieces, according to Ringler.  

Those who are engaged with this event feel that this cathartic whirlpool of various artistic reactions to injustices offers so much to its participants. If you would like to share your pieces with the community, you can send jpegs that are associated with the #EARTHJUSTICEMARCH– banners or artistic signs– to nferrier@gmail.com. The subject of this email should be the hashtag in the previous sentence, and sent primarily to the director, Nathalie Ferrier.  

Ringler’s ability to teach virtually during a pandemic, like many other professors, “…has not changed the content however it has certainly reshaped the delivery.” Likewise, local museums and art studios have allowed small quantities of art admirers to enter their facilities after considerable sanitation. “I know there was some discussion,” said Ringler, “about allowing a limited number of people to be able to view the exhibitions. For instance the Cape Museum of Art allows 6 or 7 people in at a time.”

The Tilden Arts Center, according to the COVID-19 Protocols Guiding Principles Returning to Campus, Fall 2020 digital book, is emphasizing the environment’s sanitation, PPE, and social-distancing. The cycling of fresh air from the requirement of ajar doors in the studio also helps students and the faculty remain safe when congregating on campus at this time; spray bottles of 70% isopropyl alcohol adjoin majority of the center’s surfaces, which can deal with traces of the virus and severe concerns thoroughly (34).  

“I miss the physical presence of the students,” said Ferrier. I miss the warmth of our on-campus gallery receptions. I miss the gallery work study students. And of course, it is best to see the real painting to fully appreciate it than to see it online.”

“We are collectively making a road where there is none. As one of my most beloved artists in this show, MLK’s friend, Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, suggests: wherever it leads, stay on the path of awareness and compassion, one step and one breath at a time.”