When artist Chris Rackley couldn’t bring people to a gallery, he brought a gallery to them.
With art galleries closed as part of the statewide response to the coronavirus pandemic, Rackley had an outside-the-box idea — bring an art gallery wall outside.
People in his north Rochester neighborhood recently held an event showcasing — from a distance — the talents and skills of the people who live there.
Janine Yanisch said the idea started with a casual conversation with her neighbor Joe Gyura, a woodworker, about how they’re passing time at home. Yanisch mentioned she had been playing a lot of saxophone lately. Another neighbor joked they should hold a concert. Rackley joined the conversation and said the suggestion was a great idea.
Gyura turned wood and displayed his woodworking skills and projects. Yanisch played saxophone, another played songs on guitar, one neighbor recited poetry from the front of her home, and a 5-year-old recited “Hickory Dickory Doc.”
“It was lovely to share what we each had, with others,” Yanisch said. “We had space, beautiful weather, music, words, art, good people, and family.”
Rackley wanted to show some art, but windy weather and logistics made things difficult. Laying his work on a table top would mean people might have to move closer than they felt comfortable to look at it and it might have blown away in the wind.
“I thought it might be nice to have a large artwork so people wouldn’t feel they need to get up close,” Rackley said. “I really enjoyed the strangeness of it — it’s a wall in a yard.”
Rackley mounted a painting called “Mountain Range Made of Captured Asteroids” on the wall. He even added a gallery card next to the piece.
“It was fun seeing Chris’ work come rolling down the road,” Yanisch said.
With a piece of a frame from a recent gallery show at the Rochester Art Center and casters he uses to transport his art, Rackley made a wall to hang one of his works. He used containers of water softener to weigh down the wall in the wind. He considered going shopping to buy materials for the project, but felt the trip was unnecessary and opted for the challenge of building it with what he already had.
“I didn’t want to go out if it wasn’t essential,” he said.
Other neighbors shared their talents, playing music or sharing their crafts. Rackley said it made the display feel like part of a cooperative effort rather than a solo project.
“It felt like what we were sharing was humanity,” he said. “It was just a lovely moment to satisfy that craving to get to know your neighbors.”
The event taught him much about his neighbors, their interests and talents, he added.
“It’s nice to feel embedded in this local community in a lovely way,” he said.
Rackley said the neighborhood experience and others like it around the world in the midst of the pandemic has been an uplifting response to the disruption the outbreak has caused.
“There’s this viral generosity,” he said. “In a good way.”