PATERSON, NJ – Like all aspects of life, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Paterson Art Exchange (PAX) to retool what it does.

Fortunately, when you’re working with creatives, learning how to pivot is part of any artist’s skill set.

Art Week – an annual seven-day event that gives locals the chance to appreciate the work of their fellow Patersonians – typically features a number of art-inspired get-togethers in each of the city’s six wards.

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But with the need to practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus, Paterson Art Exchange Chair Talena Lachelle Queen said they considered canceling this year’s event.

However, she said, “We knew that people in Paterson needed good news and reasons to celebrate at a time when we all have experienced so much loss.”

Queen said they also sought to “build momentum for next year’s event,” which will be a large-scale celebration. The city is currently working on a grant application “to help finance the in-person celebration which includes important collaborations with local artists,” she said.

And so, for the second annual Art Week, everything was shifted online, to PAX’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

“The art commission has very talented people who are expertly savvy with technology. It was pretty simple to switch to a virtual presentation,” she said.

And while this year’s Art Week looked much different, there was no shortage of work to highlight. The celebration showcased the creative spirit of local artists, dancers, musicians, painters, sculptors and poets. 

Viewers were also encouraged to get interactive. For instance, on Day 6, Commissioner Deniz Vergara led a cooking lesson in honor of the culinary arts and showed how to make healthy meals. On another day Commissioner Christopher Fabor Muhammad led a virtual “Paint n’ Sip”

“The arts are imperative everywhere all of the time and since we are a Paterson Commission our focus is here,” Queen said. “Many of the artists on the commission practice their art regionally, nationally and globally.”

“The art commission was asked to help with the revitalization of Paterson in concert with Mayor Andre Sayegh’s vision,” she said. “The commission has made a commitment in assisting the artists in Paterson to fulfill the call to make art.”

Next up for celebrating the arts in Paterson is the annual Paterson Poetry Festival, which is scheduled for Oct. 3 and 4. The festival, now in its third year, was designed by Queen, the city’s first poet laureate.

Miss something? Here’s a few of the virtual offerings this year’s Art Week:

On Tuesday evening, the city council will consider a resolution recognizing Art Week for creating a “space for local artists to express their art in their community” and giving exposure to “a variety of artistic expression to those who may not otherwise have such exposure.” 

The resolution is sponsored by Councilwoman Ruby Cotton and co-sponsored by Councilwoman Lilisa Mimms.

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