Embracing the virtual

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Art For The Senses has recently opened new virtual doors.

An Online Art exhibition, Making Marks 2020.

A Global Webinar contribution on Immersion in the Arts with the Elmfield Institute.

And last evening, a first online workshop.

This I facilitated with a community group from County Armagh who had secured funding from the Community Foundation NI.  This as part of their Grow and Nurture series, with the aim of awakening and caring for overall well-being.

These workshops as you know I have been running successfully for two years with groups, individuals and in the corporate setting.

I was curious therefore about my uncertainty and anxiety in using this new [for me] virtual format.

How would it work? [technology not my comfort zone]

Could I offer the same quality of experience to the participants?

Could I ensure the safe and boundaried space necessary to allow flow and creativity?

Could I hold the necessary connectedness through the two hours of facilitation?

Would this format alter the concept and aim of Art for the Senses?

I wasn’t sure but I trusted my instinct, took a few deep breaths and turned up to Zoom with the technical assistance of my partner from the humble surrounds of my kitchen table.

My audience were each in their own homes, art materials in hand and had carved out the next couple of hours for themselves. A mixture of anticipation, nerves and the unknown for us all.

After the usual introductions and briefly outlining how I would proceed I found myself moving between two screens which quickly became natural and not distracting as I had imagined.

The Session founds its own rhythm with each becoming quickly engrossed in all of the warm up exercises. I remained visibly and emotionally present throughout holding this virtual space. As one person described later each time they looked up at the screen, I was there.

The normal pauses for reflection, sharing of art made, speaking and direction followed naturally.  This was respectful and full attention afforded by the group.

The developing body of artmaking was no different to the in-person workshops previously held. A natural progression in confidence, play, awareness and response were very evident.

It was surprising as some offered later that they could feel so comfortable so quickly.

This in turn, as is always my aim allowed for creative flow.

A very humbling and enlightening experience again to see what can powerfully happen within the group dynamic when art is offered, opened and facilitated.

The experience was rich, engaging and connected.

What I was very much struck by was the significance of this virtual space of two hours for the audience. It was in equal measure a chance to make art and a time to connect with others. For one person the first “company” they had had during these months of lockdown.

Something we might otherwise take for granted.

Now that I and Art For The Senses have stepped into the world of Zoom, connection is unlimited, without reservation.