Thursday April 16, 2020 | by Farah Rose Smith

Using technology to connect artists and collectors during extended closure, Traver Gallery to host virtual happy hour with Preston Singletary

The Traver Gallery will host an "In Conversation" event with artist Preston Singletary on Thursday, April 16th, from 5 PM to 6 PM PDT (8 PM to 9 PM EST) to make up for the inability to host a real-time opening event around Singletary's ongoing exhibition "Artifacts from a Future Dream". The exhibition, which Singletary describes as "an homage to the future generations of Indigenous people", explores the the healing power of amulets, art, and shared stories. Topics to be discussed in this evening's conversation between the artist and gallery director Sarah Traver include stories and objects that inspired the artistic works, as well as the intersection of tradition and modern life.

A private link grants access to this event to those who have sent an RSVP to before 4 PM Pacific Time (7 PM EST). Up 500 people are able to take part, with over 200 RSVPs already registered.

The Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet spoke with Sarah Traver about the event, and how it fits into the gallery's extensive use of technology since it closed its doors to the public. 

Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet: How has technology helped you adapt your events in these times, and are your initiatives shaped in part by your location in the tech epicenter of Seattle?
Sarah Traver: I wish I could credit any technology expertise at all, it’s just been us learning as we go. I've really just thinking about how we would want to engage with the work, how to create a real gallery-like experience with viewers. I've been looking at the big galleries online viewing rooms, and they really feel pretty static. Yes, there's lots of good content beautifully presented, but oftentimes they don’t give the experience of being in the gallery. Our thought was to think about what our role is in the gallery and providing those experiences for people to engage with the artist, up close and personal, on something like an individual level. We want people to feel like they‘re part of the community, and to create as many online opportunities possible.

Glass: How has the pandemic impacted art sales?
Traver: We recognize a lot of people  aren’t in a position or mode to be buying art right now, trying to be respectful of that, hope that those in a position or mood will continue to support artists. We're trying to think of ourselves beyond the retail art sale, and think about what our role is in the community as a whole -- to connect audience and artist. How can the gallery continue to play that role even when we can’t have gatherings, and can’t be physically in the same space? I don’t know how effective it’s been, there's not yet that feedback loop as when you’re in the same room with people. But we have gotten some great feedback from friends that they love knowing what’s happening with the artist.

Glass: How does the current social climate impact your interaction with artists and collectors? How have your operations changed?
Traver: It's tough because you’re operating in isolation, you don’t have the eye contact, the physical cues about how people are responding.I go into the gallery a few times a week, other team members going in a few times a week, building is closed, working form a safe distance. As for actually fulfilling orders for work, we’re working on the same timeline if not even faster than you normally would see the work shipped out.

Glass: Where did the happy hour idea come from?
Traver: It’s a little bit of a trial by fire, heard a lot of responses by people who would normally come in to see Preston’s show, how really sad they were that they weren’t having that opportunity to connect with Preston. We would usually do an artist talk, generally very well attended. We wanted to create something similar. One thing that we can tell is people have shorter attention spans right now, and it's something we are seeing in online engagement. We're moving toward shorter videos and they are generally more popular than longer ones. Also toward something less formal, allows engagement, but also allows people to come and go as they please. Happy hour seemed a good model. This is the first one, we have about 200 people who have RSVP'd. In fact, it was too many, so we moved it from zoom meeting, to being a webinar, so and I have mixed feelings about that. It means Preston and I will be on video, still opportunities for engagement, and there will be a question or answer feature, where you can raise your hand and ask. It doesn’t feel quite as intimate as a Zoom meeting, where you get to see everybody. But there's a 40-person limit for Zoom.

Glass: Are you planning future events in a similar format?
Traver: Moving forward, might do some smaller ones as Zoom conferences, where it can be a gathering of 40 people, and everyone can participate more immediately.

Glass: How have you been learning all these new technologies, such as Webinarsm, or editing the virtual tour of Preston's exhibition?
Traver: It involves watching online tutorials, and just saying okay, how are we going to do this.

Glass: Are you having to rethink what you would normally do?
Traver: I've been learning all sorts of new skills, and without official training, but I do think there’s some crossover from what we normally do in the gallery. What's been really different is to have these additional presentations, and to work on online engagements rather than in-person with objects being able to walk over and touch something and point something out. One thing we’re working out during happy hour is using visuals and annotation tools as Preston is talking, I can highlight am aspect of the piece, there’s a connection to the object still, it remains to be seen how effective. As far as videography, we’re doing in house ourselves, me and two other people, with a little camera stabilizer, a little gimble, to create the virtual exhibition. We're very quickly learning how to use digital film editing software, using adobe premier pro, switching between youtube tutorials and the software. We’re going to be remote, and I don’t know if Preston will be checking in from home or the studio. I’m going to be at the gallery.

The exhibition catalogue may be found here

Preston Singletary. photo courtesy of the Traver Gallery

In his own words, Singletary describes the show as "an homage to the future generations of Indigenous people. As I create pieces and imagine themes that could evoke the spirit of my culture, it is a process. In the old days, objects were made for the opposite side of the tribe and served as a visual reminder of our shared history. Today, my work goes out into the world and is not just exclusively for my Native community. Hopefully, the objects I create inspire the next generations to explore new materials and continue to produce the forms, tell the stories, and thrive within their communities."

Preston Singletary. photo courtesy of the Traver Gallery

The following are accessible virtually:

Virtual Exhibition Tour


Individual Artworks

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