A! Magazine for the Arts

Artwork by Emily Parris is part of the exhibition.

Artwork by Emily Parris is part of the exhibition.

Reece Museum hosts exhibit featuring award-winning collection of local art

August 29, 2022

The Reece Museum, Johnson City, Tennessee, presents “Local Art in the Age of the 2020 Global Pandemic,” an exhibition featuring the work of 40 artists living or working in Tennessee’s First Congressional District during the early days of the pandemic. The exhibition is on display through Sept. 30.

“The Local Art in the Age of the 2020 Global Pandemic” is an exhibition of artwork that was made in 2019-2020. This special collection provides an emotive snapshot of artistic expression during the age of the novel coronavirus pandemic and is part of the permanent collection of the Reece Museum at East Tennessee State University. The collection won an Award of Excellence from the Tennessee Association of Museums.

The Reece Museum and Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at East Tennessee State University, community supporters Bravissima! Women Sponsoring the Arts! Others joined in an initiative to purchase the 40 works of art that became the “Local Art in the Age of the 2020 Global Pandemic” special collection.

Rebecca Proffitt, interim director, says, “We recognized early on in the quarantine experience that we are living through extraordinary times, when there is a clear ‘before and after.’ Along with this realization came the idea that art is an important way to process this collective experience by making it visible and creating a space for reflection and discussion.

“Our mission is to preserve art and history, but also to serve our community, and this collection does that in two fundamental ways. In an immediate sense, the initiative disperses funds to artists at a time when some of them may be experiencing financial instability. And later, when we exhibit the works, we can remember the things we were thinking and feeling during these strange times as a visual, emotive snapshot.

“I was thinking about the ways that we study the period surrounding the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, and how this time will also be studied, even after it passes from living memory. This Pandemic Collection is an important body of work that will provide future generations with insight into our collective experience.

“We were definitely surprised by the response. We had 106 entries and narrowing that down to the 40 that were juried in was extremely difficult in the best possible way.”

Although each of these works were created by a different artist, distinct themes, stylistic motifs and colors can be found throughout the collection, showing an attunement that makes them feel cohesive as a whole. Proffitt says, “This collection is a really beautiful grouping of individual pieces of artwork that have become representative of our overall collective experience and record the indescribable for posterity. The exhibit and accompanying catalog explore the effects of uncertainty and the power of the arts to reconnect us to our community and to one another.”

The Reece Museum is a unit of the Center of Excellence for Appalachian Studies and Services, which is housed in the ETSU Department of Appalachian Studies. The Reece Museum is located on the campus of East Tennessee State University and is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.etsu.edu/reece or phone (423) 439-4392.