As Madison greets springtime, the city feels a bit less alive than it did during the long, cold months we’ve just weathered. Streets are emptier than ever before because people can’t hold big public events and need to keep a safe distance from one another. Visiting institutions that once scaffolded our day-to-day lives felt first like a luxury, then more like a fantasy. And the cultural events and celebrations that have come to represent the turning of the seasons—the Dane County Farmers’ Market returning to its rightful place on the Square, say, or the Terrace reopening—have either been cancelled or completely reformulated to remain viable during the pandemic.
Garver Feed Mill’s Outside Looking In drive-thru art exhibition, which held its virtual opening reception via Facebook Live on April 25 and runs through May 31, was born into this sort of cultural purgatory. The exhibit, intended as a way for the community to view local art and support local artists while continuing to practice social distancing, was conceived just two-and-a-half weeks ago as Garver began hosting a drive-thru replacement for the farmer’s market. Noticing the cars parked outside the mill with clear, direct views of the mill, building manager Bryant Moroder suggested using the building’s historic gothic windows to put on an art exhibit. Since then, Bethany Jurewicz of Garver Events (who has also organized arts events like the outdoor Makeshift Festival) has worked at a whirlwind pace to organize the show, which features 18 local artists’ work spread across 25 windows in the massive historical building.
Jurewicz didn’t mention any particular theme for the show in her call for submissions—the criteria she provided was large work without fine details that could be installed in the Mill’s historic windows and could be seen both during daytime and after nightfall. Yet she’s come to realize that coronavirus and responses to it have still become a unifying theme of the show. “There’s the artists who are trying to cheer people up, the artists that are just exploring what they’re going through, and the artists that are consciously using an aspect of the coronavirus as a jumping off point for new work,” Jurewicz says. “I didn’t say, ‘take the coronavirus as inspiration,’ but that’s what’s on everybody’s mind.”