Erin Peyer

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

ACWL director Erin Peyer. The ACWL is celebrating National Drawing Day with Chalk White Lake.

WHITEHALL – If the sidewalks of White Lake looked a little more colorful than usual this past weekend, well, chalk it up to Chalk White Lake.

The brainchild of the Arts Council of White Lake-Nuveen Center, the event was an effort, weather permitting, to support local businesses and celebrate National Drawing Day, May 16.

Businesses signed up to become Chalk Destinations, and participants—anyone armed with a set of chalk—picked a destination and created chalk art in front of it. Photos were taken of the artworks, and you can view them in an album on the council’s Facebook page, where you’re invited to vote for your favorite.

Then, this coming Friday, May 22, the council will announce the winning piece and artist, with the winner receiving an ACWL-Nuveen Gift Card, a Live White Lake hat, and a $10 gift certificate from the White Lake Chamber of Commerce.

Of course, safety recommendations were emphasized. “Head out with members of your household,” the event planners instructed. “Wear a mask. Stay six feet away from anyone not in your household. Do not share chalk with anyone outside of your household.” And oh, yes—“Have fun!”

It’s just one more way the council is trying to maneuver in a COVID-19 world.

“We’re making do,” says ACWL director Erin Peyer. “We’re re-evaluating the situation on a daily basis. We had to cancel our March and April classes, and we haven’t put out a new schedule yet because we’re waiting to see what’s happening.”

Nonetheless, like so many other organizations, the council is adapting to the new reality of a socially distanced world and focusing on the online and virtual opportunities that are taking the place of face-to-face interaction. For instance, addressing the increasingly concerning issue of mental and emotional anxiety in the face of the coronavirus, the council encourages you to “have some fun with your mental health” Friday, May 22 at 2 p.m. with an online journal making activity. On Tuesday, May 26, at 9 a.m. there will be a virtual round table on the arts and culture industry.

And whereas in the past, summer fundraisers were highly anticipated events to be enjoyed by the community, the council has devised a creative way to keep them going.

“We have two new fundraisers planned,” notes Peyer. “The first, ‘Quarantine Art,’ will be held in mid-June. The second online event is an auction that will replace our annual Art in the Barn event.”

As the arts have always been a reflection of the times, and a voice for humanity in those times, the ACWL is determined to address the issues created by a pandemic that is threatening society on virtually every level. At the same time, the council seems determined to turn fear into hope, paralysis into action, depression into creativity.

“Have you been using some form of art-making to stay sane during these lockdown days?,” reads the website promo for Quarantine Art. “Has the influx of COVID-19 news led you to find respite in your sketchbook, yarn, watercolors or guitar? The Arts Council of White Lake – Nuveen Center needs you! Please consider donating a piece to our Quarantine Art Fundraiser.”

The fundraiser is open to anyone, regardless of age, art background or lack thereof. Hey, we’re all artists, right? “Anything you make or made and have rediscovered during this time of quarantine can be donated,” we’re assured. The possibilities are endless—you can submit everything from paintings and drawings to multi-media, greeting cards, knitting, felting, quilting, framed photography, pottery, sculpture, jewelry, batik, carving, candles, soap, framed music score, hand-written poetry…Pretty much the opposite of a traditional restricted show.

The purpose of Quarantine Art is twofold: to provide a positive approach to a crisis, and to keep local arts alive. The ACWL’s summer fundraising has traditionally brought in 38 percent of its annual operating budget. Now, with the economy in peril, the fundraisers have taken on an even greater urgency. When things are sunny, we tend to take arts organizations for granted, enjoying the events they provide without thinking about what it actually takes to provide this critical service to the community.

“For our non-profit to survive and thrive through these uncertain times we need our community more than ever,” the council reminds us. “For 35 years, the mission of the ACWL-Nuveen Center has been to provide quality arts and cultural programming to the White Lake area. You rely on us to schedule a Free Summer Concert series, community theater programming, offer diverse art classes, display stimulating gallery exhibitions, and showcase the excellent regional artistic talent in our retail gallery.”

The date and place of the Quarantine Art event is still to be determined, but pledged work should be delivered in a drop-off by June 1. With the fluidity required of the times, the council is waiting to see if the fundraiser will be live, virtual—“or both.”

Peyer is making it as easy as possible to submit a work. “Simply email Erin Peyer – Director at nuveen@artswhitelake.org. and say that you want to pledge Quarantine Art for the cause. You do not need to be specific about the piece or include a photo – all we need at this time is your pledge. Just supply the following information: Name, e-mail, phone number, and type of art or project piece.” Your pledge will be confirmed with a return e-mail and Peyer will contact you by May 22 with information regarding drop-off.

Meanwhile, Peyer reports that the council is “working on making videos and kits for classes that people can pick up.” And Zoom events are also “in the works.”

“The arts bring people together,” she reflects. “They lift people’s spirits, however we participate in them.”

As for the plucky young director, a musician who only assumed her position in September, Peyer is making the most of “stay home, stay safe” restrictions.

“I’ve taken up crocheting,” she says. “It puts me in a different place than watching TV.”