With art galleries closed due to COVID-19, local artist Ford Smith has created a new way to the public view art — his driveway.
Residing in Roswell, Smith and his wife and manager Cristi Smith decided to set up one of Smith’s painting on an easel each day, along with an introduction letter to neighbors asking to them respect social distancing protocols.
“I noticed the growing number of people walking, jogging or biking past our lakeside Roswell home, practicing social distancing and getting some fresh air,” Smith said. “At the same time I thought how sad with art galleries and museums closed, no one is having in-person experiences with art, and how that was a shame because people need art in their lives—now more than ever.”
Weather permitting, residents of the East Spring Lake community are able to view paintings normally shown in an art gallery.
“I thought it would brighten the days of our neighbors, give them something to look forward to and they’d appreciate a special art exhibit during this lockdown,” Smith said. “It’s what we can do to make our part of the world a little better.”
Smith graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in painting, but it was not until he was 50 years old that he began painting for a living. Smith sold his photography business he had started and pursued painting full time. Smith’s expressionist landscape paintings have since hung in galleries across the globe. He and his wife own Ford Smith Fine Art, with his gallery here in Roswell.
Smith said the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on the art industry, including his own work. His spring showcase was cancelled.
“With galleries closed and no shows on the schedule, it’s incredibly hard for them to put collectors and artists together, which is key for galleries to thrive,” Ford said.
Like numerous other industries, creators and curators have been forced to rethink the way they operate. Businesses have turned to online sales.
“However, there are many artists and galleries that didn’t place much emphasis on online art sales before, but COVID-19 has forced them to, and that’s great for everyone,” Smith said. “It’s forced everyone to think about their business more creatively, and I’m betting that those who make it through will come back even stronger.”
Yet in the midst of uncertainty, the Smiths have focused their energy on bringing art to the neighbors. Each morning they decide on which painting to display, and Cristi Smith writes a descriptor for each piece that “helps the viewer to connect or look deeper into the painting.” Spa music plays in the background, further provoking the feel of a true art gallery.
The paintings displayed run around $3,500 to $24,000, with the largest at 72”x84” worth $40,000. The couple says they do not worry about the need for security. Neighbors are protective of the art and the daily escape it brings.
“Having lived here for 24 years, we believe in the goodness of our neighbors, as well as the people who visit this fine art exhibit,” Cristi Smith said. “There is a kind of reverence given to it and people are very protective.”
For now, the daily art escape will remain during the pandemic, but Smith may introduce it later as a pop-up exhibit.
“I hope this show might inspire a lot of people, who’ve never cared about art much before, develop a passion for it and visit museums and galleries regularly once they’re back open,” Ford Smith said.
The artwork is displayed each day from around 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the East Spring Lake subdivision.