Writer and photographer Vanessa Thomas is a testament to the value of networking. In 2019, when she was co-founding the Dublin Arts Collective, she reached out to illustrator and painter Beth Okurowski, president of the Pleasanton Art League. PAL has been a fixture of the Tri-Valley visual arts community since it was launched in 1969, and Okurowski is a longtime member.
“You have an arts organization, and I’m starting one — let’s talk!”, Okurowski recalls Thomas saying to her. The artists made a connection over coffee and stayed in touch, and Okurowski invited Thomas to get involved with PAL, too.
Flash forward to March 2020, when the world as we knew it ceased to exist. Arts organizations like DAC and PAL had to cancel events that would have given their members valuable exposure to the public. In-person member meetings were also put on hold. The biggest challenge? Moving everything — from member meetings to art shows — to an online format. Members had varying levels of technological skill, and the leaders of the Tri-Valley’s arts organizations were unsure where to start.
“Initially, it all seemed very difficult, and quite intimidating,” Thomas says.
Working their way through pandemic changes, DAC and PAL, and a third Tri-Valley arts organization, the Livermore Art Association, have found strength in connecting their nearly 300 members in new ways. At Okurowski’s suggestion, PAL started a technology task force that led to regular “Tech Team” meetings, enabling the groups to have joint online gatherings and shows.
At 7:30 p.m. Monday, the three arts organizations will host a meeting on Zoom that is open to members and the general public.
The topic is “Photographing Your Artwork,” and the conversation will emphasize techniques for making artwork shine online. To receive the Zoom link and attend the meeting, email Christine Watters at the Livermore Art Association at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We worked together before, but not like this,” Okurowski says. “The three organizations have really grown through this.”
In the midst of rising COVID cases and county restrictions, there has been a flurry of activity in the Tri-Valley arts community. When the first lockdown happened in spring, PAL assembled take-home art kits for every student at Valley View Elementary School — more than 300 children received the kits. PAL also moved its 11th annual Member Show, which is usually held at the Firehouse Arts Center in Pleasanton, to their website. The show remains available for viewing at https://www.pal-art.com/member-show-2020-all-entry-gallery/. The group has a Call for Artists out for its annual Museum on Main show, which generally runs from January to March. Whether the show will be live or online remains to be seen.
DAC is launching a mentorship program for young Tri-Valley artists in 2021, and they will be partnering with PAL and LAA to expand the program’s reach, Thomas says. A local business owner has donated a wall for a mural, and DAC will be actively involved in its creation. The mural project is still early in the discussion and planning stage, Thomas says.
The three groups’ collaboration is keeping the arts conversation moving forward.
At the groups’ collective “Art Matters Social” on Dec. 7, three sculptors showed their work via Zoom, and while it was a very different experience than seeing it live, or meeting the artist in their studio, members were enthusiastic about the program. All you had to do was skim the chat box to get a glimpse of the support that artists have for other artists in the Tri-Valley.