l learned of COVID in early March 2020 when an artist cancelled her show opening reception where we’d normally have 50 to 100 people at cre8ery, a gallery I own in Winnipeg. I worried that if one person wasn’t well, it could infect more people. Even before the public health order in March 2020, I shut down to protect myself. Artists who rent studio space here were allowed to work in their private studios.
The reason I’m a bit concerned about the virus is because when I was 11, I was sick with a bad flu and it caused my type 1 diabetes. I’ve worked hard to stay healthy for the last 30 years and with COVID being a virus much more serious than the flu, my concern was this could cause another immune response in my body, and might damage my heart and lungs. A lot of people have said we need to protect the vulnerable, and the issue is we don’t know who those people are. I’m 41 and I look fairly healthy, but I’m not really strong enough to fight the regular flu. It’s not just the elderly who will be affected the most–it could be just about anyone.
If I get sick and go to the hospital, cre8ery would have to shut down permanently. I couldn’t afford to keep it running otherwise. The artists who rent studios are keeping me safe by telling their visitors to put masks on when they come in. I put in a plexiglass barrier by my sales desk. I always keep my distance, even further than the recommended distance. Some shows have been virtual, and some shows have happened in the gallery without a reception. I miss seeing community members, friends and getting hugs at receptions. But now, when people visit the gallery, they spend more time looking at the art, and they have a chance to talk longer with the artist.
I’ve been checking the Manitoba site to see when I can get immunized. I fit into the auto-immune category and diabetes category, but they’re booking people older than me. I watch the public health press conferences to see when new changes are coming that will affect cre8ery. It’s exciting to see the age of people getting appointments drop so quickly. I hear from artists older than me who get their appointments and I’m happy for them. I check how many people are ahead of me on the vaccine calculator: it was 309,000 and at first I thought, that’s so many, but each day it’s getting closer.
I’m going to be very cautious after I receive the vaccine. I’ll continue to wear my mask and keep my distance. I don’t want others to get sick. I’ll still be a homebody, but I’ll feel more comfortable when there’s a new person coming into the gallery to look at the art. But I think in the long run, after COVID, there could be an explosion of art and creativity like in the Roaring 20s.