Sustaining Through Shifting

Sustaining Through Shifting

Momentary stays motivated during murky times


Northwest Arkansas’ ambitious and engaging contemporary art space, the Momentary, had been open to the public less than a month when institutions began announcing temporary closures in the interest of stemming the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Momentary and its sister space, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, both originally announced temporary closure from March 16 through March 31, with canceled programs and events through April. Both organizations announced this week the closures have been extended to May 6, with all programs canceled through the end of May as they continue to monitor the situation.


“A big part for me in this is the acknowledgement and everyone’s understanding that we’re dealing with something much larger than the Momentary or Crystal Bridges or the region — it’s truly a global conversation that we’re in,” shares Pia Agrawal, the Momentary’s performing arts curator.

“We were never a singular entity in this conversation. People are dealing with rescheduling entire tours or changing the timelines on how they make work. There were artists who were like, ‘I was really excited to come to Arkansas for the first time,’ or premier this work or get into the studio and whatever that is. So everyone has their own relationship to what’s going on, and we were able to [have] those conversations of how we’re all dealing with this together.”

That togetherness seems to be the theme Agrawal has identified in the performing arts community as creators and art lovers find ways to form connections in the midst of complete global uncertainty.

“Thinking specifically about performance — which is based around getting everyone into this feeling of oneness — what does that look like in a digital sphere?” she poses. “The beauty of working with performing artists and contemporary artists is they have a really special skill of making us see the conversations we’re already having, but frame them a different way. Or making us see things that are already in our life through a different lens.”

Seeing how people have already shifted in their socializing — Agrawal mentioned she had three different “digital hangs” planned the day we spoke — indicates what’s also coming for artists, she notes. As people figure out ways to stay connected, how can artists organize means to continue sharing their work in a digital space?

“There are a ton of artists that have been making work strictly for digital platforms for a while, but this is going to become something that’s more common. This is going to open up a whole new genre or body of work for a lot of people,” Agrawal predicts.

Another point of connection the Momentary is offering for those stuck at home, missing community, or some who maybe just need to quiet their minds is its weekly series “MOment of Zen.” Every week, people can interact with the Momentary through Instagram, Facebook or through the website to find thoughtful moments with artworks and collaborations with a variety of community partners on yoga/meditation moments.
(Courtesy Photo/The Momentary)

“When we’re able to reconvene and hold events again, the energy in those rooms is going to feel really different, and people are going to be really excited to come together, whenever that moment is. But I’m even thinking about the hybridity. There’s been a few things I’ve seen like Instagram live or social media platforms that have been streaming, that have really created a community around the audience. What’s interesting is figuring out how that maintains.”

As it stands, the Momentary and Crystal Bridges are, daily, exploring ways to sustain connections to art and build relationships within the community. Being an art space that encompasses visual, performing and culinary arts, the Momentary staff are working to continue grounding its multidisciplinary identity in a digital sphere.

The Momentary’s blog is one of the best places to stay up to date with the venue. Among myriad content, visitors can find artist interviews and video content from the Momentary’s opening exhibition “State of the Art 2020” and the opening weekend TIME BEING festival; interactive resources for weekly curated music playlists; Tower Bar cocktail recipes from beverage manager Jena Barker; Momentary-inspired coloring pages; and more ways to #MOfromHOME.

“I think art is a way to find community, comfort, understanding, perspective — by strengthening a perspective you already have or bringing a new perspective to light. The power of art is the ability to understand the world better,” Agrawal muses. “We are in a position right now where what the world is right now, and also what it’s going to be, feels really murky for a lot of people. And artists have a beautiful way of bringing truth, especially in times that feel a little bit dark or little bit unknown.”


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