COVID-19’s community impact: RMG artfully goes online

Robert McLaughlin Gallery's drive-in event, 'The Perfect Day' was hosted to help people physically distance and yet be able to enjoy the RMG Fridays. "(The drive-in event) was similar to what we would offer for an actual RMG Fridays event at the gallery," said Ingrid Forster, Communications and Digital Media Lead at RMG. "We had a band that played two sets and we had DRIFF screen one of their films." Photo credit: Courtesy of Ingrid Forster

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of articles chronicling the effects of COVID-19 on businesses and organizations in Oshawa.

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery closed in late March due to the pandemic and reopened its doors to the public July 28.

Even though they were closed physically, they weren’t inactive.

The gallery transitioned to host virtual programming, online exhibitions and art activities on their website to foster the creativity of the artists and to serve the community.

RMG is a non-profit organization, funded by the City of Oshawa, grants and donations. They also generate revenue from workshops, classes, summer camps and their shop. However, during the closure, they were not able to offer these activities resulting in a loss of revenue.

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery at 72 Queen St. reopened its doors to the public after being closed for four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Robert McLaughlin Gallery at 72 Queen St. reopened its doors to the public after being closed for four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo credit: Courtesy of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery

“We did really feel that impact because we weren’t able to offer any of the onsite programs during the closure,” says Ingrid Forster, communications and digital media lead at RMG.

Forster says the loss of revenue is not the biggest challenge they’ve had to face.

“The greatest impact that we’ve had is the impact to our exhibitions and programming and access to those from the community. The loss is really that during the closure, our community wasn’t able to come into the building and experience the programming and exhibition spaces in person.”

RMG’s vision is Oshawa and Durham Region flourishing through arts, culture and community connection and resilience. Not wanting to let COVID-19 defeat this vision, RMG adapted to the situation swiftly.

“We did respond very quickly to the closure and moved a lot of our programming and content online,” says Forster. “Our priority, especially when our doors were closed was to still provide our community and our audiences with these meaningful art experiences virtually.”

Additionally, the RMG Shop started providing customers the ability to safely order their merchandise online on Sept. 7.

Robert McLaughlin Gallery's drive-in event. The Ugly Horse performing at RMG Fridays on Sept. 4, 2020.
Robert McLaughlin Gallery's drive-in event. The Ugly Horse performing at RMG Fridays on Sept. 4, 2020. Photo credit: Courtesy of Ingrid Forster

On the first Friday of every month, RMG hosts ‘RMG Fridays’ which features musical performances, local film screenings, art talks and food.

“RMG Fridays is a big event that sometimes attracts hundreds of people,” Forster says.

During the closure, the gallery had to put a halt to the event.

After reopening, RMG adapted to the situation and remodelled its Friday event to a ‘drive-in’ in their parking lot where people could physically distance and still enjoy the event.

“Those were very successful and they were sold out each time,” says Forster. “It worked out really well for social distancing and spacing out the vehicles.”

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