Ironically for Dustin Harewood, an admired artist and beloved educator, the day-to-day of his pre-COVID-19 schedule left little time for actually making art. A fixture at art openings around the region large and small, between showing his own art and attending exhibitions featuring the work of others, as Harewood says, it can be “hard to make art when you’re trying to be a successful artist.”
So what’s a dogged, tireless supporter of local arts to do with the world on lockdown? Make art, of course!
An eternal optimist, Harewood, while not taking the pandemic lightly, has used the time productively, looking inward, taking time to be present with his wife and kids, and, of course, making cool art.
When the world is not shut down, Harewood’s work–his reef studies, his abstract and mixed media pieces, his signature tropical-inspired palette–is easily visible, adorning the walls of galleries, offices, restaurants, and private residences across the city. And, if this interview is any indication, the post-COVID-19 city will have a lot more of Harewood’s art in it.
Besides confirming that he was–more than staying sane–actually enjoying his time in isolation, Harewood gave us the lowdown on his go-to quarantine meal and his thoughts on what the local arts scene looks like post-pandemic.
How you holding up? What’s quarantine life like for you?
I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve been doing great. I am a true introvert who’s always preferred being at home, rather than out and about. Between my job, family, making and showing work and attending other people’s events, I’ve been running non-stop for the past five years. It’s hard to find time to make art when you’re trying to be a successful artist. Oh the irony. This for me is a welcomed pause. I really needed to slow down.
Any magic you’ve discovered to find solace, or block out the news for a minute?
I find solace in working on my art. I’ve had a lot more time to do that as of late.
What’s your go-to quarantine meal?
My wife is whipping up all kinds of great Japanese dishes man, so I’m eating like a king right now!
As an arts educator, how has this impacted the finale of the semester? I imagine Zoom conference calls aren’t ideal for art class.
Well, to be honest it’s been a bit of a disaster for me. My teaching practice takes place in a studio which is kind of like the equivalent of a science lab. You don’t just shut the lab down abruptly and then ask everyone to continue their experiments at home. I’m not teaching 18 people how to make a single painting like I’m on PBS on a Saturday morning. I’ve got 18 people making 18 different paintings, who all need individual attention whether technical or conceptual. I’ve been trying to do it remotely, but it’s nowhere near the same experience. Not even close!
Any sense of how broadly this will impact our arts community? What’s one way this whole thing might affect both artists and consumers of art here locally?
Well, when Trump got elected in 2016 it seemed like a ton of angry Trump Art was produced. Now it seems like a lot of Covid-19 imagery is coming in waves. We should indeed, as artists, reflect the times that we are in. But I don’t think that so much of the work has to be so overt. But I guess there’s no avoiding it, the next few thousand images produced will have face masks in them! [laughs]
We’re all stuck at home–some of us with little to do. I’ve seen a lot of articles telling artists not to put too much pressure on themselves to be “productive” despite outsiders thinking it might be an ideal time to create something. What’s your advice to artists during this period?
Oh I saw all of those self care, don’t put any pressure on yourself to do anything but survive articles and posts. But as a first-generation American whose family immigrated here for more opportunities–who’s also an instructor–I personally reject those notions.
I’m not referring to the parents who have now become full time educators for their kids online learning while juggling their jobs and a household, or the people who are actually sick or have lost their streams of income and are legit freaking out. I’m referring to my dear friends who’ve had that Chicken Little “the sky is falling” syndrome who are more preoccupied with the negative cable news cycle than being productive. And some others who choose to invest eight hours-plus per day on Animal Crossing and other video games. The people who, in their lives, have been generally interested in self-improvement and growth will take this time to read more, to research, to refine their craft, to produce. The go getters will take advantage of the extra time; they won’t waste it.
Anything you’ve seen or heard that’s given you hope for the future?
I’m an optimist. Everything’s going to be just fine. Nature has been getting a momentary break from our relentlessness.
This interview originally appeared in Void Magazine’s May 2020 issue, The Check In.
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