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Connecting With Art

Updated: Jun 10, 2020

Asha Barnes is a Public Health/Pre-med major, class of 2021. She’s originally from Round Rock, Texas, and this is her third semester with AGBS. In her own words, she describes how the pandemic has shed new light on the time she spent in the galleries.

Like most people, my daily routine—and more so, my life—has been scrambled by COVID-19. It’s hard to describe how strange it feels attending lectures in my pajamas when, for two months, I consistently planned outfits for the week. Some days it’s hard to find the motivation to be productive. Some days it’s hard to avoid feeling suffocated by my own house as the freedom to explore my surroundings has been taken away. However, one aspect of my pre-quarantine life which has remained constant, is being a gallery attendant. I say constant because I am still able to contribute to the galleries’ offerings—by writing essays about artists, or exhibition themes, or even share my thoughts about working in the gallery itself. Before the city-wide shutdown, as a gallery staff member, I was expected to look after the gallery space and the art within it. This meant cleaning duties, welcoming visitors, and locking the doors at 5pm. Outside those duties, I spent my shift working on my never-ending coursework. Because I used some of my time at the desk to catch-up on my non-gallery life, it was easy to neglect my feelings and thoughts about the space in which I worked. I felt a physical connection to the art pieces as they created the space around me, rather than a mental one. During moments of down-time, I would explore the details of a work, or think about how the photographs might be connected to ideas of a future existence. But these moments were rare.

I felt a physical connection to the art pieces as they created a space around me, rather than a mental one.

Despite COVID-19 taking away access to the gallery space, the pandemic has strengthened my mental connection to In Their Own Form. As I continue to contribute to the galleries’ offerings remotely—researching and writing—I’ve had to take time to draw my own connections to the exhibition. I’ve deepened my understanding not only of Afrofuturism, but of the multiple stories which inspired the artists to create their work. When you have knowledge of an artist, you develop a stronger ability to understand why they might’ve chosen a specific medium or how their own experiences shape a work.

I wanted to work in a gallery because I enjoy how museums are places to be reflective. But in hindsight, I may have taken my time in the galleries for granted—not allowing myself enough room for reflection. However, while life feels slow and mundane, it’s given me a chance to reflect on how the themes of In Their Own Form mirror my own personal experiences and dreams for my community. Even though I miss being able to turn my head and see those vibrant photographs, I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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