Facing the threat of the coronavirus, colleges around the United States are moving their instruction online to keep their students, faculty and staff safe.
While one-third of all undergraduates are enrolled in online classes now, art schools are scrambling to adapt their curriculum for a virtual learning environment.
This transition has proven particularly challenging for students holding their BFA and MFA thesis shows, as galleries across the country are canceling their openings in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic.
In response to widespread gallery closures, Ohio-based artist Benjamin Cook launched the Instagram account @SocialDistancingGallery to give students an online space to exhibit their works.
The account, which aims to create "a community of artists helping young artists amidst this crisis," has currently almost 16,000 followers.
Artists exhibited on @SocialDistancingGallery include Amanda Durig with "What the Eyes See and the Mind Knows," Alanna Styer with "A Prairie, Not a Promise," Thor Audiss with "Nurture Nature," as well as Epiphany Knedler with "Wish You Were Here."
"The general concern [of students] everywhere is that they wasted their time. They've put four years of work in and, over the past couple months, feeling like it was so close and getting really excited, are having it fall apart at the last minute to something they had no control over," Cook, who is an adjunct professor at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, told ARTnews.
While submissions for Social Distancing Gallery are currently open, Cook is not the only artist turning to social media to offer a digital alternative to physical exhibitions.
Barbara Pollack and Anne Verhallen recently mounted the show, "How Can We Think of Art in a Time Like This," with the writer-curators explaining on the dedicated website that prevailing themes include futuristic pessimism, political outrage and psychic melt-downs."
Lynn Hershman Leeson, Judith Bernstein, Janet Biggs, Miao Ying, Dread Scott, Jenny Polak, Kathe Burkhart and Zhao Zhao are featured in the exhibition, with more artists to be announced in coming weeks.
"We invite people to treat it as if they are visiting a proper exhibition. Each artist has submitted about five works, and some of it is video content. We hope people take the time to navigate through the different artists and read their statements," Verhallen recently told Artnet News, with Pollack adding that visitors should "join in the conversation" in the comments page.