Cancelled events amid concerns over the coronavirus are getting increasingly common these days, and Squire Foundation program SB Art Biz’s planned art show featuring works by homeless artists, “Brilliance & Resilience From the Streets,” has just joined the list.
On Tuesday, the News-Press was informed of the decision to make the show originally planned for March 19 a nonevent and change it to an online fundraising sale of art pieces that would have been displayed at Chase Palm Park Center had the show gone forth. According to Squire Foundation Outreach Director Jana Brody, a significant number of the event’s expected attendees announced that they were no longer going to attend out of concern for the spread of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Many who chose to forego the event were older individuals, a demographic particularly vulnerable to the virus.
“A large number of our constituents and donors weren’t comfortable coming because of the age concerns,” Ms. Brody said.
She added, “We’re saddened by the state of affairs, but you have to go with safety first.”
The cancelled art show was to be the first of its kind organized by SB Art Biz, a Squire Foundation-affiliated program founded by Joan Sanger that teaches homeless artists entrepreneurship as a means of getting out of homelessness. The program began after Ms. Sanger visited the PATH homeless shelter over the 2018 Christmas season.
There, she was amazed to find out that many of its transient individuals were artists working in media from drawing to woodwork. After returning to PATH seven times that Christmas season to give the homeless artists art supplies, she decided to start SB Art Biz as a vehicle to help homeless artists become entrepreneurs for their work. During one of her visits to the shelter, she met pastel and charcoal portrait artist Allan Ostermann, who was to be Brilliance & Resilience’s main featured artist. Mr. Ostermann told the News-Press that while he has been looking forward to the art show for a year, he’s understanding of the decision to cancel it and ensure people don’t get ill.
“I’m not going to put my ego in front of saving lives,” he said.
As a portrait artist, Mr. Ostermann specializes in drawing portraits of pop culture icons including classic Hollywood movie stars Rita Hayworth and Robert Mitchum, and rock stars like Bono, Lou Reed, and Prince. His most frequent portrait subject is Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger, though he personally prefers the band’s guitarist Keith Richards, who he has also drawn. On the day for which the event was originally planned, Mr. Ostermann’s renderings of famous faces and the other participating artists’ works will be available for purchase online at www.thesquirefoundation.org/events/crav-2020, with all money from sales going to the sold pieces’ respective creators. SB Art Biz will also be taking donations online at www.sbartbiz.com, all directly benefiting the program. While this work may not be getting the personal showcase that he’s been looking forward to, Mr. Ostermann told the News-Press that he hopes his work is as impactful to people online as in person.
“What I always hope for is that people will see my work and that it touches them and that they appreciate it. That’s kind of why I do it,” he said.
In addition to being a visual arts showcase, Brilliance & Resilience was also to feature interactive food, interactive dance, and music, so Ms. Sanger expressed regret that these elements of the event won’t be taking place as expected.
“I’m disappointed, the dancers and musicians are a little disappointed, but they understand,” she stated.
As far as Ms. Sanger is concerned however, this cancellation due to public health concerns is only a temporary setback, as SB Art Biz fully intends to throw this event as it was envisioned once worry over the coronavirus is a thing of the past.
“We’re going to do it again,” Ms. Sanger said. “We’re just going to wait until it’s a healthy time for everybody to come.”