Saturday, May 08, 2021

Person of the Week

The Time is Right for SAA’s Future VOICES

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Whitney Lorenze is curating Future VOICES, Shoreline Arts Alliance’s (SAA) newest opportunity for artists across the spectrum and of all skills to have work with topical themes, particularly those concerning social activism and COVID-19, published on the SAA website during a three-month public exhibit, which opens Thursday, Dec. 10.

Photo courtesy of Whitney Lorenze

Whitney Lorenze is curating Future VOICES, Shoreline Arts Alliance’s (SAA) newest opportunity for artists across the spectrum and of all skills to have work with topical themes, particularly those concerning social activism and COVID-19, published on the SAA website during a three-month public exhibit, which opens Thursday, Dec. 10. (Photo courtesy of Whitney Lorenze )

With the copious gallery space of the Internet, Shoreline Arts Alliance [SAA] is working to draw artists from across the spectrum, and all levels of ability, to enter pieces inspired by today’s topical themes—from COVID to social activism—into Future VOICES.

SAA plans to share this ambitious online exhibit with the public beginning Thursday, Dec. 10 at www.shorelinearts.org.

“It’s providing an outlet for topically driven work, so it’s really rich soil, artistically speaking,” says Future VOICES curator Whitney Lorenze. “Of course, we’re not expecting everyone to exhibit the next Guernica. We want everyone to feel like they have a voice in this, regardless of their skill level.”

Okay, full confession, this writer scurried over to the Google to research Guernica, and Whitney’s reference is spot-on. Pablo Picasso’s oil Guernica (1937) is an homage to the eponymous Spanish town during its time as the epicenter of the resistance in the Spanish Civil war. It’s hailed as one of history’s most powerful anti-war paintings.

“Some of the most well-known artworks are emphatically political in nature, and I’m sure the same goes for performing arts—I know it does for writing,” says Whitney. “No work of art can avoid responding to the time in which it was made, even if it does manage to avoid being overtly political.”

Whitney, a Guilford visual artist who by day serves as non-profit SAA’s program and membership associate, is excited to share news of Future VOICES and notes the innovative virtual exhibition is accepting artists’ entries through Thursday, Dec. 3 at www.shorelinearts.org/future-voices.

“It’s our first all-ages program that seeks to exhibit basically every art form simultaneously,” says Whitney. “We’re doing visual art, dance, poetry, music, theatre, creative writing, film—basically we’re seeking to exhibit any documentable form of creative expression. I’m really looking forward to the prospect of the whole community being able to participate, and I’m really excited to be able to curate it.”

Whitney and SAA CEO Eric Dillner are grateful to longtime artist member and SAA supporter Earl Grenville Killeen for inspiring the concept for Future VOICES.

“Earl Grenville Killeen is one of our most generous supporters and an artist himself, and he has a real talent for recognizing the needs of young people in our creative community. And so his idea was originally for an outlet for topically driven work related to the spread of COVID or other social issues, through young people, specifically,” says Whitney. “And it immediately struck Eric as a wonderful idea, and when he relayed it to me, I knew that the concept had great potential.”

The concept was tweaked to expand the exhibition opportunity to all ages. It’s a first for an SAA exhibit and at the same time something Whitney feels will resonate with many artists, for many reasons, at this point in our history.

“I think we recognized everyone’s mutual frustration right now, their desire to express themselves, particularly in times like this. So it felt like it was really important that we include everyone,” she says.

Add to that the pandemic pause that’s affected live performances and in-person exhibits this year, and this opportunity for artists to join Future VOICES and for art appreciators to take in a new exhibit become exponentially more important.

“The lack of going out and seeing shows or participating in shows...being an artist or an art lover, that’s the crux of it,” says Whitney. “That’s the foundation, is exhibition. And if you can’t show anyone your art, that’s a really creatively stunting thing. We’re so lucky that we have a platform like the Internet that we can continue to share art through.”

An Encouraging Platform

A Guilford High School Class of 2014 alumnae, Whitney earned her BFA in 2019 from Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts (now Lyme Academy of Fine Arts) where she majored in drawing and minored in painting. She came to SAA first as a volunteer, during her junior year in college, and joined the staff after graduating.

“When I started volunteering, it was immediately clear to me that Shoreline [Arts Alliance] is a huge cultural staple in Connecticut at large, and the staff was doing really important work. So it was easy to want to stick around,” she says. “I also got opportunities to jury shows and work with other artists and art lovers. So I feel really lucky.”

Speaking of opportunities, Whitney encourages all artists of all skill levels to take the opportunity enter Future VOICES, including young people interested in expressing themselves through art.

“In high school, I kind of considered myself more of a hobbyist. I wasn’t involved in the exhibitions or the competitions. And I think that’s part of the reason we’re trying to specifically encourage young people to submit,” she says. “They’re not always the most confident people in their abilities, adolescence being the fraught time that it is.”

That said, Whitney notes Future VOICES is also gathering great responses from professionals as well as highly skilled amateurs, rising artists, and novice artists (children under 18 may enter with parental permission).

“It’s been great. We’re getting submissions from lots of skill levels, lots of ages. Some people clearly are just starting out and have something they feel they need to express right now, with everything that’s going on in the world. And some people have been [in the arts] for a long time [or] they’re in school, or they’re using it as an outlet for their professional practice or as a way to advance their professional career. Either way, we’re happy to be able to provide a platform for that,” says Whitney.

SAA’s digital platform can be a springboard for up and coming artists hoping to get their work in front of a larger audience, as well.

“We have such a rich creative community among the shoreline and in Connecticut in general. All of our exhibitions, regardless of whether they’re online or in person, have huge turnouts,” says Whitney, adding, “especially when we have something online, because they’re so accessible. So people will get their work seen [in Future VOICES], which is really important.”

As for the work that’s coming into the exhibit, “[I]t’s amazing,” says Whitney. “The shoreline, it’s not a monolith, and everyone has very different takes on everything, and everyone has certain issues that they’re more focused on. It’s great there’s so much to talk about right now, and I feel fortunate to be able to be involved in a program that provides an outlet for that.”

As curator of Future VOICES, Whitney’s been working to develop an influential online exhibition that will channel viewers to digital spaces sharing all of the different types of artistic input submitted as photos, PDFs, embedded videos, etc.

“It’s going to be curated so it’s organized, and everything kind of speaks to each other,” she says, noting this is not a juried show. “We’re going to post everything that’s appropriate to be posted, at every skill level and every age. We just want everyone to feel that they’re included and a part of something.”

To make it easy for entrants, the entire submission process is offered online. Future VOICES has also eliminated the need to submit professional level documentation of the work.

“Just give it your best shot; make sure it’s neat looking,” Whitney advises. “Phone pictures are fine. We really want to make sure everyone feels included, regardless of the photography equipment they may or may not have at home.”

Members of SAA, non-members, and students are invited to submit for a nominal fee ($10 for students, $25 for members, and $35 for non-members).

“As a non-profit, all of the money that comes in from exhibition fees and programs like this always just gets processed back into the organization, so we can continue doing programs like this,” says Whitney.

As with so many non-profits, 2020 has not been a banner year for SAA fundraising, while the services provided are needed more than ever.

“This year has difficult for everyone, and we’ve been trying to accommodate everyone in that way,” says Whitney. “When we did Images earlier in the year, just when COVID was happening; we had to think on our feet about how we could accommodate people. Because on the one hand, we’re struggling, but we know everyone’s in the same boat. [SAA] started offering fee waivers, which is important especially now, but always. We always want to make sure everyone feels they can participate in these events.”

When Future VOICES opens on Dec. 10 for a three-month run, viewers might want to consider making a contribution of any amount to Guilford-based SAA, which has been educating, engaging, enhancing and enriching the state’s cultural landscape for 40 years (online donations are accepted at the SAA website).

“We always could use the support,” says Whitney. “We’re always grateful when people are willing to help us out, if they are so inclined.”

For more information on SAA or SAA Future VOICES, visit www.shorelinearts.org or www.shorelinearts.org/future-voices.


Pam Johnson covers news for Branford and North Branford for Zip06. Email Pam at p.johnson@shorepublishing.com.

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