Sunlight pours through the large storefront windows at Argyle Fine Art. Inside, 328 pieces line the walls while sculptures sit dispersed throughout the centre of the store.
Store owner Adriana Afford chats with customers as they wander around, exploring her current exhibit: “Pre-Shrunk.”
The show features artists from all over Canada. Each piece measures 4” x 5” and is priced at $175. Any medium, from paintings to sculptures, can be included if it’s the right size.
For the past 18 years, the annual exhibit has created excitement within the community.
Four-time “Pre-Shrunk” contributor Heidi Holloway described the pre-pandemic scene as “crowded, bustling and busy … an experience to be had.”
Despite the restrictions the pandemic has placed on the gallery, the show has flourished in its creative response to these unusual times.
More than just an art exhibit
The exhibit was created with the intention of giving people something to look forward to during that uneventful stretch between Christmas and spring. Amidst an isolating pandemic, the community spirit that the exhibit creates is more important than ever.
“[Having] something you have to look forward to, especially the last couple years with the pandemic, it’s nice to … know this is coming up,” says Afford.
Holloway has seen many positive changes come to the art world during the pandemic.
“I have seen that there are more art sales occurring online,” says Holloway. “Galleries are becoming more adaptive and even if they do have a brick-and-mortar location, they are upping their presence and the availability for customers to buy art online.”
Raquel Roth has been a part of the “Pre-Shrunk” show for three years. Roth says art has helped people brighten their spaces while they were stuck inside.
“I think people started looking at their space and wanted to improve,” says Roth. “Art kind of brings that in if you want some bright colourful art to cheer you up while you’re on your Zoom meeting.”
Roth believes this desire to improve living spaces created an uptake in sales.
Developing an online presence
Downtown Halifax Business Commission CEO Paul MacKinnon says most Halifax stores created or improved their websites during the pandemic, which was a lifeline for many.
“Going into spring 2020, a lot of small and independent businesses either didn’t have an online presence or maybe had a Facebook page or pretty simple website,” says Mackinnon. “There’s been a huge shift.”
Afford agrees, “More and more people are used to having to do everything online. Work and meet up with family and friends and so [buying art online] is no different. They might get a little online-tired but for this show they’re excited.”
Celebrating local artists
This is Halifax resident Annie Murray’s first year being a part of “Pre-Shrunk.” Murray says the pandemic has helped people appreciate local artists.
“I think the pandemic brought about the idea of supporting local as much as possible, which is great for local artists rather than just going online and just buying prints or going to HomeSense,” says Murray.
The pandemic has even changed some artists’ approaches to art.
Throughout the pandemic, Holloway has tried to make her art as positive as possible.
“[My] art has taken on more vibrant colours, and I think some of that has to do with me just trying to implicitly bring some brightness to what has been happening over the last couple of years,” says Holloway.
Holloway says creating positive work can be hard during difficult times.
“It’s darker, so there’s a tendency to want to go darker with your art, use deeper colours and that kind of thing to reflect the mood. It really is a bit of a conscious effort … to do the opposite of that,” says Holloway.