Saturday, April 17, 2021
Artists Help Artists with The Gatherings Project
Gail Severn displays Lynda Lowe’s “Unbound,” which features a writing by poet Terri Kirby Erickson inside.
Tuesday, January 5, 2021


As the coronavirus pandemic began to spread across Idaho and Washington, closing art galleries and shuttering theaters, artist Lynda Lowe came to Gail Severn with a proposition:

Why not ask artists to create art during this time to raise funds for artists who are struggling because of the pandemic, she asked.

Now, nine months later, the 56 handcrafted wooden boxes that were painted by artists and filled by poets have raised $50,000 for artists in Idaho and Washington.

Tyson Grumm, known as “painter by night,” painted “Domicile”

“It’s artists helping artists,” said Gail Severn, whose gallery helped facilitate The Gatherings Project, along with the Patricia Rovzar Gallery in Seattle. “People love the collaboration between the painters, poets and writers. They like the idea that it’s about giving and receiving—and the artists are grateful to be able to help others. I loved looking through the boxes and seeing how poets related to the artwork.”

Lowe got the idea from The Patra Passage, a project she did five years ago that involved making, sharing and re-gifting 108 ceramic bowls. Five hundred participants from around the world contributed their talents with proceeds going to Save the Children.

Lowe created a few of the boxes for The Gatherings Project. For one, she painted the lid of a wooden box with a hand and a bird—characteristic of her art which explores the relationships between art and science, perception and consciousness.

Then, in a move that evoked her tendency to layer text, poetry and scientific observations in her work, she passed the box on to another artist, who contributed a drawing or a bird to put in the box. Another recipient contributed more art, along with a couple excerpts by poet W.S. Merwin.

Kara Maria, a San Francisco artist whose work reflects political topics and the environment, painted TP in acrylic since it was so difficult to get the real thing.

“Your absence has gone through me like thread through a needle,” said one of Merwin’s pieces, which  seemed apropos for the isolation many have felt during the pandemic. “Everything I do is stitched with its color.”

Finally, poet Terri Kirby Erickson contributed a piece titled “The Doctor Who Died of the Coronavirus After the Hospital Runs out of Gloves.”

“There is no linear time in the hereafter,” she wrote. “Angels do everything at once. They see the last pair of latex gloves drop to a hospital floor in slow motion, the look of fear on the face of the gloveless doctor who, in the blink of a human eye, goes on caring for patient….

“Those who pass away during the doctor’s glove-free hours feel the touch of warm skin on his or her forehead when they take their final breaths. This is the unselfish mercy that humans are capable of, which makes the angels marvel….”

Katie Metz, who specializes in scratchboard painting using razor blades to create anonymous cityscapes, painted “Connections.”

“The boxes offer a sense of discovery as you open them and see what’s inside,” said Severn. “It’s magical.”

The artists who participated endowed the lids with landscapes and wildlife. Katie Meetz displayed a city scape and Patrick Lo Cicero, a hat evoking the idea of a memory. Robert McCauley, who has long displayed his work at Gail Severn Gallery, topped his lid with a bear wearing a face mask.

As The Gatherings boxes traveled around, others added narratives, commentaries, poems, artwork and meaningful object. Then they chose another recipient to give it to in a continued sequence of giving and receiving.

Phyllis Cole-Dai wrote: “Pots and pans clang from balconies and windows flung wide from street to sky. We are the cheering crowd, the book of US…Nobody is not essential. We are the prayer for our ailing world and this is the beginning of our shift.”

Victoria Adams, who is represented by Gail Severn, painted “Containment.”

Wrote Ginny Lowe Connors: “The way we lived all those years seemed ordinary to us. Of course, it’s different now. We can never go back. That was before the Great Pandemic. Before the fevers came. People left us and we didn’t get to say goodbye.

Their absence weighed on us, a sack of rocks we couldn’t put down. And we felt anxious. We licked our lips and tasted stone. Though some people tasted nothing. Their sense of smell was gone too. Part of the illness. But what we missed most was touch….”

And Charles Goodrich wrote: With the baseball season suspended, I’ve switched to rooting for nature, watching a live-feed of chicks hatching in an incubator in Kansas, beavers building a dam in Alaska…Later, donning my Mariners cap, I wander outside to cheer on nuthatches pilfering seeds form the bird feeder, then walk the street, enjoying the rush of neighborhood trees leafing out, the manic grade of gray squirrels racing along power lines.

“I can hear some of you virtual fans screaming, ‘Hey, coronavirus is nature, too, you bum!’ And it’s true. Diseases are natural. Droughts, forest fires hurricanes, floods…

“Death itself is natural. So, keep your distance from the peanut vendors, coughers, deniers and hawkers of hate until this strange, dangerous season blows over. Baseball will resume, and the Mariners will mostly lose, but nature is never not at bat.”

Severn said some collectors are showcasing the boxes on coffee tables; others are hanging them on walls. She has one at home in her book case.

The project gave $25,000 of the money to the Idaho Commission on the Arts to be distributed among Idaho artists statewide. The other half of the $50,000 went to the Artist Trust to be distributed among Washington artists.

“I’m overwhelmed with the generosity of everyone who’s participated in this project,” said Lowe. “We’ve all been upside-down in some manner during the pandemic and longed for connection. Gatherings offered us community in the midst of all this.”

Severn said visual artists and performing artists have been hit hard by the pandemic.

“We been able to open and stay open because our community took COVID precautions seriously because we had been hit early on. But many galleries across the country had to close at the beginning of the pandemic and some in places like Los Angeles and New York have still not been able to reopen. Some are operating by appointment only, and some have had to close because financially it was too difficult to hang on.”

Gail Severn Gallery has kept its artists in front of collectors by providing online videos of the artists at work in their studios. But, with gallery walks and exhibitions cancelled, business is still not what it was.

“The ability to have your work seen is really important,” Severn said. “Artists got some money from the CARES Act but that’s a drop in the bucket. Online sales have helped, but that’s miniscule compared to what they might have enjoyed otherwise.”

Want to see the art and read the poems? Visit


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