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Coping through art theme of Arts Center East exhibit

VERNON — "This sculpture, made of chicken wire and piece of white fabric, is made up of thousands of names of people who have died from COVID-19," artist Harriet Winograd's statement said. "Viewers are welcome to actually (or virtually) hug the piece since the deceased were not able to be hugged before they died."

The exhibit, "Coping: Responding through Art," runs through Sept. 27 and is viewable at the center and online.

ACE Executive Director Jennifer Kowal said the point of the show was to showcase how artists use art to deal with a myriad issues.

"Obviously, everyone is affected by COVID, but there is a lot more going on in people's lives now, too," Kowal said. "It was response to natural disasters, gender inequalities, political stressors going on right now. Anything in recent history that people are dealing with and have to cope with, and they created art to do so, was applicable for this exhibit."

Eighty-seven pieces from 47 artists were selected, and all were submitted online. The judging was also done online, and selected works were then brought to the center to be hung. Works included a statement on the piece, and how it relates to the theme.

Artist Mallorie Ostrowitz had three works in the show, all of which showed closed businesses.

"Tierra Amarillo Cafe," a photograph by Mallorie Ostrowitz, shows a closed business, representing thousands that are currently shut down due to the pandemic. (Steve Smith / Courant Community)

"This body of work is based on the theme of 'closed,' which describes the current state of many thousands of businesses throughout the country," Ostrowitz said, in her statement. "They were all shot in New Mexico and represent once thriving businesses that have declined because of the failing economy in times of economic crisis, such as [what] the country is currently experiencing due to the COVID pandemic."

Harriet Winograd created a 'Covid Hug Wheel' which invites visitors to give a hug to victims of the virus. (Steve Smith / Courant Community)

Kowal said that artists had the opportunity to not only submit works that were directly about coping, but also to showcase what sorts of work they use to escape from what is troubling them.

"We also recognize that artists, or just people in general, in order to cope, they remove themselves from that situation," she said. "They create art where they find solace in areas that are peaceful, where they connect to the environment or with family, as a way of coping, too."

Linda Boisvert-DeStefanis's "Serenity at Dawn," which won first place at the show, is an example of that sort of coping.

"I feel calm when I photograph wherever I happen to be and I look for the moments that generate a feeling in me, like a peaceful morning by the marsh or watching a dynamic sunset over Lake Champlain from the dock with all the people, as well as the people standing on their boats to enjoy the lovely sky," Boisvert-Sestafanis said, via her statement.

Linda Boisvert-DeStefanis's "Serenity at Dawn" won first place at the show. (Steve Smith / Courant Community)

Kowal said the electronic system was already in the works before the pandemic and will remain in place after restrictions are lifted. Exhibits will also continue to be shown virtually, as well as at the center.

"Going forward, we'll be doing all of our submissions through an online jury process," Kowal said. "We're also going to continue offering the arts for people who can't come in person, or who would prefer not to attend, through our website."

For more information, including Arts Center East's hours of operation and upcoming exhibits, visit


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