During a disruptive and challenging few months, the artists at genU’s James Street Gallery have been able to continue their creative journeys.

For more than 20 years the gallery has provided weekly studio access and support for around 40 artists living with disabilities. As COVID-19 hit and health restrictions took hold, the day program was deemed essential to the wellbeing of participants, and the gallery sought ways to continue working with clients during lockdown.

A flexible and creative approach was required, and genU responded. A small but well-equipped film studio was installed at the gallery with cameras and lighting. Kits containing a variety of art materials were packaged and delivered to artists homes, and staff worked in pairs to film projects and processes which were live-streamed via Zoom video technology to artists in isolation. A very small number of artists were also able to continue working within the studio, where they were supported by additional staff in accordance with social distancing protocols.

James Street Gallery online
James Street Gallery artists have continued classes in an online environment.

James Street Gallery Coordinator Teresa Lawrence said supporting gallery clients throughout lockdown became a priority for the organisation.

“Delivering the program via Zoom was all about keeping our artists connected and engaged, even if they could not attend. This was especially valuable for those living in supported accommodation, and we were delighted when the technology also enabled us to make new connections with artists living outside Geelong, in Melbourne and Wyndham.”

Natalee has been an artist at James Street Gallery (formerly Karingallery) for 19 years and enjoys traveling there independently. Since April she has been isolating at home with her parents, and has been unable to attend any of her usual social and community connections. Nat misses her independence, but says she’s feeling worried about becoming unwell or making her parents ill. She now joins the gallery’s Online Art Program via zoom four times a week and it’s become an important connection with the world outside her home.

“Well, put it this way…” said Nat. “Sometimes I feel really sad when I think about what’s going on and that I’m missing out. The Zooming has been really good. I love being able to talk to people on the computer and make things and it makes me want to come back and see my friends and paint again.”

For more information about James Street Gallery click here, or call (03) 5221 1789.

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