Arts community in Perth remains vibrant despite COVID-19 pandemic

More than 15 artists came together in Perth, Ont., to showcase their work and celebrate the local arts community, despite the challenges they face due to COVID-19.

Anna Stafford
Kicker

PERTH, Ont. — Artists and locals gathered on Saturday, Oct. 3, for the Harvest Market in an effort to keep the arts scene alive during the pandemic.

Rebecca Hodgins, a 28-year-old artist based in Perth, organized the market and is an active member of the local art community.

The planning process for the event was challenging and at times stressful because of COVID-19 regulations, Hodgins admitted, but she thought it was worth the work.

“I think it’s important to do this kind of event in this kind of time,” Hodgins said. She hopes events such as this will help keep momentum within the arts community.

Hodgins has been in communication with Perth’s local health authorities from the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark Health Unit to ensure the market is safe and adheres to all necessary COVID-19 regulations.

Folks at the market remain physically distant when possible. Most wear masks, and hand sanitizer sits at the entrance.

The market took place at a dairy farm. Hodgins’ parents bought the property two years ago and run it as an Airbnb. Hodgins’ studio is attached to the barn on the property. Pumpkins and fall leaves surrounded the artists, as music played in the background and a small bonfire burned.

Evan Brown, carpenter and artist, shows customer the sauna he built from an old horse trailer.
 Artist and carpenter Evan Brown shows his work to a customer. Brown built a sauna using an old horse trailer. Anna Stafford/Kicker

Hodgins is friends with most of the participating artists.

“Artists tend to find each other somehow,” she said, laughing. Several of the other artists echoed Hodgins’ sentiments, remarking that they are good friends.

Grace Poltrack, one of the creators showcasing her work, said the Perth art community is made up of “yes people” – people who jump on board and take on projects enthusiastically and as a team.

Gabbi Maria, another participating artist, was grateful the community came together for an in-person event. “It’s never the same seeing it online”, she said. . . “You don’t get those same networking opportunities like being at events like this.”

Sarah Kirkham and Daniel Anderson, both born and raised in Perth, support the local art scene. Though they are not artists themselves, they have personal ties to the community. Anderson’s grandmother was an artist in Perth, and Kirkham’s uncle is a local carpenter.

Anderson and Kirkham, and several of the artisans, noted that an older generation of Perth artists laid the groundwork for the current community of creators and makers.

They are especially grateful for this community now, as it sustains the Perth arts scene during the era of COVID-19, allowing events such as the Harvest Market to take place.

The main organizer of the market helping a customer
Rebecca Hodgins, an artist and main organizer of the Harvest Market in Perth, Ont., helps a customer shop. Hodgins creates and sells custom tie-dye. Anna Stafford/Kicker

“I’m grateful that people are turning out, too; I wasn’t sure about that,” Willa Murray, a leather worker showcasing her work, said. Several other artists also said they were pleased with the turnout from the community.

Despite its success, this might be the last in-person market for a while for this group of creators, as Ontario COVID-19 cases increase and officials implement new regulations. However, Perth artists will continue to come together virtually.

The upcoming Perth Studio Tour, an annual Thanksgiving event, will move online and will feature several local Perth artists. Murray is helping to plan the studio tour and is hopeful for a good turnout, especially since the community has been so supportive of the Harvest Market.

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