Local Organizations and COVID-19: Carriage Barn Arts Center


For today’s Q&A with a local nonprofit organization, we hear from Hilary Wittmann, executive director of Carriage Barn Arts Center.

Here’s our exchange.

Courtesy of Carriage Barn Arts Center

New Canaanite: Many of our local nonprofit organizations have missed out on major spring fundraisers due to the health-related restrictions that followed COVID-19 virus. How is Carriage Barn Arts Center faring and what sort of impact is the public health emergency having on the organization?

Hilary Wittmann: It’s been incredibly disappointing that the gallery has been closed this spring and so many exhibits, special events and concerts couldn’t take place. There have been some silver linings though, as we transitioned to sharing our exhibits virtually. Through social media, zoom and building online galleries we’ve stayed connected to our members, and possibly reached an even wider audience with our programs. That being said, we’ve certainly lost revenue from a variety of programs and missed connecting with artists and visitors in person in the gallery.

Courtesy of Carriage Barn Arts Center

What has the response been like from the community? 

So many people have tapped into their creative energies during this time, so I think there’s more appreciation than ever for art, music—anything that brings some beauty and joy to our daily routines or surroundings. So people have been really engaged and supportive. Our artist members have particularly appreciated our virtual gallery talks, allowing them to share and discuss their work virtually during this time of extreme isolation.

Courtesy of Carriage Barn Arts Center

You have run the Spectrum, “She Is Rising” and now the Art in the Windows exhibitions online. What sort of interest are you seeing in virtual shows?

It’s really hard to convey the impact of artwork through an online image versus seeing it right in front of you. Also, when we hang a collection of work in the gallery, But, we’ve been able to pique people’s interest in a piece or a particular artist through social media posts, artist talks we’ve done on zoom, and the ability to browse through our exhibits from home, on your own schedule. Then when people are interested in buying, we’ve been able to accommodate viewing pieces at the Carriage Barn. During Spectrum we hosted a panel discussion with several photography experts on zoom which was fantastic—that would have been much more difficult to schedule and coordinate as a live event in the gallery. So that’s an example of something we may continue to do even after we reopen. During the “She Is Rising” exhibit with LiveGirl in late May, we also hung the art in the gallery and were open to small groups by appointment. We had a fantastic response to that. People have really missed visiting museums or galleries and seeing art, plus they appreciated being able to plan a specific time to visit with their family or a group of friends.

Courtesy of Carriage Barn Arts Center

What can members and visitors of Carriage Barn Arts Center expect to see this summer?

I’m really excited that we’ve been able to produce the Art in the Windows exhibit which features 80 pieces displayed in about 50 New Canaan store windows through July 4. There is such an amazing variety of work included—paintings, photography and sculpture—from traditional landscapes or still lives to contemporary abstracts and mixed media pieces.  All the work is by local artists from our community and sales support their artistic endeavors as well as the Carriage Barn. People are excited to get back downtown to shop and dine and support our local businesses—so it’s a great time to also enjoy the artwork and buy something really special to take home. The New Canaan Sculpture Trail is also fully installed and on view throughout the summer.  We partnered with the New Canaan Land Trust to organize this outdoor exhibit—artists installed or created pieces for six of the land trust sites, as well as the Carriage Barn courtyard and in front of town hall. I definitely recommend downloading the app (otocast) and visiting each of them this summer.

Courtesy of Carriage Barn Arts Center

This week, we will see the category of “museum” reopen in Connecticut, as per the governor’s order. What is your hope or expectation as far as reopening Carriage Barn goes? 

The Carriage Barn doesn’t typically hold exhibits during July and August, so we’ll be reopening the gallery in early September with our annual member show.

What is your message for members and visitors? 

We miss you. Until we can see you back at the gallery, visit our website carriagebarn.org for updates on virtual programs—and connect with us on Facebook and Instagram too.

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