By Cody Arnall
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, two new art groups have provided Lubbock, Texas, with engaged programming and thought-provoking exhibitions. CO-OPt Research and Projects, an artist-run gallery and studio space, opened in July 2019 with the aim to engage and serve the community with alternative and experimental contemporary art and music projects. East Lubbock Art House (ELAH), founded in February 2020, is an organization created to support Black and Brown artists and serve traditionally underserved communities through the arts.
Hidden in a Lubbock neighborhood, CO-OPt occupies a large repurposed gas station/car garage in a 1950’s strip mall. The repurposed gallery is surrounded by large glass windows in the arch of a quarter circle, making exhibitions and happenings at CO-OPt easy to view from the street or parking lot. The nine contributing members realized early on these windows would be an important aspect in continued programming during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Caroline Doherty’s exhibition, Ruse de Guerre, opened March 7, 2020, but CO-OPt soon closed its doors due to Covid-19. Despite the closure, the group kept the exhibition on view through early July. Eight large black flags hung in the gallery following the arch of the windows. In large white letters one side of the flags read TRUE, the other FALSE, eerily connecting current political, social, and pandemic dialogs. Surprisingly, the exhibition held up just as well only viewable from the windows.
CO-OPt has committed to continue programming that is socially distanced and safe for viewers. The group is beginning a run of exhibitions that will continually evolve and build on previously installed works. When You’re Done Dying, by CO-OPt member Cody Arnall, was installed through late August as a part of Terrain Exhibitions/CNL Projects’ ART-IN-PLACE series.
East Lubbock Art House, run by Danielle Demetria, has been busy since forming earlier this year and has not slowed down due to Covid-19. ELAH hosted an online fundraising Art Auction and created an at-home residency program for Lubbock artists, House Party Artists Residency. ELAH also hosted a digital and print exhibition, 40 Acres and A Mule: Why East Lubbock Deserves Reparations, that included “work representative of the socio-economic hardship and present cultural state in the Eastern portion of Lubbock, Texas.” Additionally, ELAH created a program to provide art kits for students ages 6 to 13 in East Lubbock. Demetria noted of the project, “It’s helped us serve many children in the community and helped us close a small gap in the accessibility of art supplies and art making tools in the community.”
ELAH also recently acquired a physical space to host future events and activities. An upcoming event, Graffiti Nights!, will consist of roughly 13 artists working on individual small murals in East Lubbock. Each artist works on their murals every weekend in September. Some of the pieces will be executed on movable walls and will eventually migrate throughout the neighborhoods of East Lubbock.
Cody Arnall is an Assistant Professor of Sculpture at Texas Tech University.