Little more than a week before Governor Doug Ducey issued a stay-at-home order for Arizona due to COVID-19, Artlink opened the Annual Art d’Core Exhibition Gala scheduled for March 19, to kick off Art Detour weekend. The 25 artists participating in the Art d’Core exhibition were given a choice to abandon the project – saving time and money during a pandemic – or push forward knowing full and well that turn out would be the absolute lowest ever experienced. An overwhelming 22 artists chose to go forward with the show despite the pandemic proving their commitment to their practice, their bravery in the face of the unknown, and the adaptive and tenacious capability of Arizona’s artists.

Art d'Core Exhibition. Photo by Danny Upshaw, courtesy of Artlink.

Art d’Core Exhibition. Photo by Danny Upshaw, courtesy of Artlink.

COVID-19 shutdown a 32-year standing tradition of Art Detour and the Artlink’s Art d’Core Gala, some of the valley’s largest annual art events. Artlink Inc. (a 501(c)3 nonprofit founded 1989) formed to support artists by creating a network between artists, businesses, and the Phoenix community and shapes the valley’s artistic community with longstanding events like First Friday. While the Gala was canceled, the exhibition continued from March 19 through its closing date of April 14th. Artists and the public were encouraged to attend the exhibition at the Park Central Warehouse while practicing social distancing. Artlink also produced a virtual gallery walk-through of the exhibition with has surpassed 400 views on YouTube as of this publication.

COVID-19 was not the only marked difference in this year’s Art d’Core Exhibition. Rather than internally selecting artists, this year was an open call. Additionally, it was the first year participating artists were encouraged to collaborate with members of the artist’s council. The resulting exhibition was a gorgeous display of partnership through large scale installations, video pieces, photography, and painting.

The exhibiting artists included: Joan Baron, Rowan Burkam, Peter Deise, Rigo Flores, Jeremie “Bacpac” Franko, Noemi Gonzalez, Sam Heard, Mike Jacobs, Eric Kasper, William LeGoullon, Gloria Martinez, Abbey Messmer, Mary Meyer, Rembrandt Quiballo, Patricia Sannit, Melissa Sclafani, Rachel Srinivasan, Marilyn Szabo, Tricee Thomas, Christy Wittmer, Yuko Yabuki, and Bobby Zokaites.

While COVID-19 has changed the art world in many ways it has only strengthened Artlink’s mission. On March 19, Artlink transitioned The Artists Forward Fund (TAFF) to the Emergency Relief Fund for Arizona Artists and Arts Professionals in partnership with Arizona Commission on the Arts and partnership of Arizona Community Foundation, the City of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, and Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona, which provided emergency relief grants of up to $750 to those in the arts community effected by closures and canceled events due to COVID-19.

Artlink also took the opportunity to post signage in the exhibition directing those who could to contribute to the fund. Thanks to overwhelming community support, the Emergency Relief Fund has distributed a total of $171,830 to 235 artists and arts professionals across Arizona. Artlink’s primary goal was for the exhibition to contribute to raising awareness for the emergency fund in any way possible.

The exhibition is still viewable via the virtual gallery walk-through, and through photos on, Artlink’s new concept gallery, which seeks to address the needs of 21st-century artistic practice. Furthermore, while the Emergency Relief Fund is now closed, the Arizona Commission on the Arts continues to update the site should the opportunity to reopen applications present itself.

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