Saturday, June 6, 2020

Artists featured at virtual East Lansing Art Festival share their work, talk COVID-19 impact

May 18, 2020
<p>Salina Kalnins is a Michigan-based artist who specializes in nautical chart art. Before it moved online, this would have been her first year at the East Lansing Art Festival. PHOTO COURTESY OF KALNINS</p>

Salina Kalnins is a Michigan-based artist who specializes in nautical chart art. Before it moved online, this would have been her first year at the East Lansing Art Festival. PHOTO COURTESY OF KALNINS

Michigan-based artist Salina Kalnins was excited to participate in the East Lansing Art Festival for the first time this year and to have her work displayed in downtown East Lansing. Instead, her paintings were showcased virtually over the weekend.

The 57th annual East Lansing Art Festival, originally scheduled to take place downtown May 16 and 17, took place entirely on the East Lansing Art Festival's website due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It's one of those annual events that everyone looks forward to,” Kalnins said. “This year everything is just different, and we have to adjust. I think the efforts the festival has put on to make sure that the artist is still represented is amazing.”

The website was updated to feature all-day live streaming sessions of the art galleries that would have been displayed at the actual festival and included links to artists' websites as well as scheduled performances, art demonstrations and other activities.

Owner of her business and studio Art On The Water, Kalnins hand paints scenes onto nautical charts using acrylics and various mixed-media. She enjoys using vibrant colors and painting water.

"It's not easy because water itself is clear, but you're also catching reflections, the light shining in and ripples," Kalnins said.   

Categorized under 2D Mixed Media for the festival, Kalnins’ painting titled "Chicago Lakefront" depicts a view looking south and is painted onto a nautical chart of the city.

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“It's just my favorite big city to visit when I really want to go somewhere that's still close to home,” Kalnins said.

Currently residing in Tekonsha, Michigan, Kalnins has been a full-time artist for about five years. She has done a lot of commissioned work for the U.S. Navy, painting their ships onto nautical charts of the area they are stationed in.

“I like it when people draw a familiarity with the scene that I painted relative to the nautical chart that it's on,” Kalnins said. “It's usually of a special occasion or a special place that people have visited, and it always brings back a special connection or a time for my customers.”

Because the art festival was moved online, Kalnins said her paintings might not have had as much of an impact.

“It makes bill paying a little bit more complex,” Kalnins said. “With the art fairs, it’s a gamble if you're going to make a lot of money or not, but you at least know you're probably going to make something. But now with them canceled, it's kind of up in the air, so it's a little nerve-wracking.”

Art fairs are a full-time gig for wildlife and nature photographer Todd Maertz, who said he attends 12 to 15 a year. He has been invited to the East Lansing Art Festival for the last three years.

“Every art fair that I've applied and been accepted to this year has been canceled,” Maertz said. “Not one of them has mentioned doing anything virtual. So, as far as I know, this is the only one in the state so far that's even considering it. Maybe, depending on the success, other art fairs might follow suit.”

Maertz’s selected artwork for the festival titled "Pier II in Keweenaw Bay" shows a sunrise over Lake Superior. 

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“I believe photography is about establishing the memory or the attachment to the photo,” Maertz said. “When I can start telling those stories, I usually will end up with a sale. Versus somebody just clicking by (who) doesn't hear the passion, it’s a harder sell.”

For Maertz, there is a big drawback to the festival being virtual, as he enjoys interacting and connecting with his clients at his display. On the bright side, Maertz said he has seen a significant rise in his online sales lately as people are making an effort to support small businesses.

“It’s honestly the only way I can sell since I can’t do my art fair,” Maertz said. “I'm excited for the potential of pushing some traffic that way.”

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