December 2, 2021

Finding creativity amid COVID

CRT exhibition features artwork inspired, or hindered, by pandemic

Jamie Costa/staff reporter

The Cortland Repertory Theatre Downtown is holding an art exhibit to highlight the hindrances and inspirations of work created throughout the COVID pandemic. Rona Knobel, left, and Jae Harris examine an exhibitionist’s artwork on Saturday.

Greater Cortland area artists contributed work to the Cortland Repertory Theatre Downtown’s art exhibition highlighting the creative thoughts and hindrances caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Musicians can livestream a concert, but never hear the applause.

Painters, sculptors and visual artists can create, but it’s difficult to see the reaction on someone’s face to a virtual display.


The details

WHAT: Creative Cortland: A Community Visual Arts Exhibition
WHERE: Cortland Repertory Theatre Downtown, Port Watson Street, Cortland
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, noon to 5 p.m. weekends through March 14.
COST: $5 donation is suggested
ART AUCTION: Crystal Lyon will donate original works to a silent auction with a starting bid of $100 with all proceeds going to support Cortland Repertory Theatre. Winners will be contacted after exhibition closing.


Crystal Lyon, the theater’s house manager and exhibit curator, said many artists have had to find new paths to creative discovery.

“You want to have people around you, surrounding you, giving you feedback on your pieces,” said Rona Knobel of Cortlandville, one of the contributing artists who was at the exhibition Saturday. “It’s exciting to produce but when you’re in your house by yourself, inertia sets in and we tend not to do as much as we normally do.”

Having a deadline inspired Knobel and pushed her to paint portraits of her cats.

“My work is always for somebody else, so when I know I am making pieces for someone else, it motivates me to work,” Knobel said. “But when I don’t have that, again, it’s like ‘oof.’”

The state Labor Department reported 600 fewer people in Cortland County working in December compared with December 2019.

Similarly, buying and selling art has slowed, Knobel said.

Artists have been unable to make commissions.

For artists like Quentin Bartholomew, finding inspiration comes in the form of dreaming, and hasn’t been hindered at all throughout the pandemic, said her mom, Jae Harris.

“She had this overflow of energy and had just finished her first novel and she had to find something else because she had it stored up for so long,” Harris said. “She had to do something very, very visual.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic ends, Knobel and Harris said they hope outside exhibits and virtual performances continue.