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Finding Comfort in Art During the Pandemic

Around one year ago, scientists began cautioning us about a new virus that had the potential to become a serious, life-disrupting pandemic. Face masks and "shelter-in-place" became hot topics. Through all the anxiety and uncertainty, one familiar experience gave us an escape: the arts.

We found comfort in the arts. With music venues closed, musicians turned to virtual listening rooms. Can't go to the club? No problem. You could listen to DJs spin late into the night on their social media sites. Museums made their collections available in free virtual tours. Movies found new homes on streaming platforms when the theaters closed, and most of us ended up binge watching a television series or two to pass the time
(marked safe from watching Tiger King).

The pandemic could not stop artists. In fact, the pandemic spurred a new interest in the arts all over the world.

One local shop in downtown Canton, Menagerie on Main, found its voice during the pandemic. Opening just weeks before the shutdown, its owners quickly pivoted to find new ways to serve the community. Featuring local artists in an array of different styles, Menagerie on Main provided a gallery for art lovers to escape from the darkness of the world, which also became an outlet for creators to sell their art. For example, young artist Raymond Pickens was at first hesitant to share his skill at this new shop.
But as a Canton native and former Cherokee High School basketball standout, Pickens is exactly the kind of local talent that helped our city shine during these times.

This past year was particularly hard on the Cherokee Arts Center. It had to temporarily close its doors to in-person classes. Thankfully, the volunteer board was able to reset priorities and find new, creative ways to offer arts education to our community. Virtual classes and online resources will keep the Cherokee Arts Center active until it can once again have classrooms filled with eager students, many of whom may have picked up a brush or camera for the first time during the pandemic.

Public art is a sign of a healthy, thriving community. Prior to the shutdowns early last year, a plan was conceived to add more public art in Canton. The first location was the long, low wall on Railroad Street. After vetting several highly qualified artists with original, breathtaking concepts, a group of Cherokee County schoolteachers were chosen to paint a mural on this wall. Be on the lookout in the months ahead for updates on the progress of the mural.

Canton is full of artists and creators from all walks of life. Like art, our community should be accessible to everyone. As we listen to scientists and begin to safely reopen music venues, galleries, and theaters, keep in mind how the arts comforted during "these unprecedented times."

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