Art through the window or online: A coronavirus First Friday in Lincoln

by L. Kent Wolgamott

If you want to see artwork in person on Friday, you’ll have to take a walk or drive down O Street and look in the window of Kiechel Fine Art.

If, however, you’re interested in what’s being shown at the Lux Center for the Arts, Noyes Art Gallery and Tugboat Gallery, you’ll be able to go online Friday evening for virtual tours and artist talks.

That is First Friday in the time of coronavirus.

All of the city’s university-associated museums and galleries are closed. Most private galleries are either shuttered or open by appointment only.

None are planning to hold the First Friday openings that normally draw hundreds of people on an evening-long art walk that traverses downtown and spreads to spaces from Fiendish Plots near U.S. 77 and West O Street to the Lux Center for the Arts on North 48th Street.

“We thought about maybe we’ll admit four people at a time, not that anyone would come out,” said Kiechel Fine Arts’ Buck Kiechel. “But if it caught on, there could be lines of people waiting to get in. You can’t have that. So the best thing to do is keep the doors closed, put the art in the window and keep the lights on. It will be the lamest First Friday ever. That’s all we can do.”

For Kiechel, who operates Nebraska’s largest gallery and sells work around the world, the dark First Friday reflects what has happened in his business this month.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” Kiechel said. “Last week was the first week without a single sale, ever. At times like this, art isn’t on the top of people’s minds. The art market, nationally and here, has been pushed back and put on hold. It’s a very stagnant business.”

 Work of Regionalists and contemporary regional artists in contrast at Kiechel Fine Art

There might be a chance to see some of Kenny Walton’s exquisite glass-ball paperweights and square glass vessels if you take a look through the window at Constellation Studios Friday.

“I’m going to be installing the glass exhibition Friday,” said Constellation Studio’s Karen Kunc. “There’s no opening. I’m not even going to be open at all.”

The Constellation show, which had been set to open on April 8, is a memorial show for Walton, Kunc’s husband, who died last year. A memorial event that had been scheduled during the run of the show has been postponed. But Kunc decided to go ahead with the exhibition.

“If I put it up for me, that’s the benefit I’ll get from it,” Kunc said. “Maybe some people will be able to see it. It can be seen by appointment. I have specific dates that I’ll be here.”

The Lux online “opening” will correspond with its normal First Friday event, starting at 5 p.m. on Facebook.

“I’m going to do an interview with Riva Lehrer, whose work is in our east gallery,” said Lux gallery director Katelyn Farneth. “There are seven pieces in the show. We’ll have slides of them, and she’ll talk about them. She’s got really good stories that go with each one. People can jump on and ask questions. It will be exciting.”

Two hours later, the Noyes “opening” will begin, also on Facebook.

“There are a couple of artists who are going to be here,” said Julia Noyes. “We’re going to be showing the new shows on video. We’re going to do this on First Friday and Third Friday.”

Tugboat Gallery also will be taking the show it had scheduled for April online, but only through images.

“Our April artist is moving next month, so this is our last show to show his work,” said Tugboat’s Peggy Gomez. “So we’ll put what we can on the website.”

Tugboat is the center of the First Friday scene in the Parrish Project at 14th and O streets. Few, if any of the Parrish galleries and shops will be open Friday, and there should be no openings there, she said.

Canceling Friday’s opening was a particular disappointment for Gomez.

“It’s our 13-year anniversary,” Gomez said. “We always have cake. I always bake a cake for the anniversary opening. It’ll just be for me, I guess.”

View the full article via the Lincoln Journal Star here.