Notebook and Pen

The Shoreline Bulletin

Welcome to Shoreline Arts Alliance's blog The Shoreline Bulletin, which is created, designed, edited and managed by our amazing team of high school interns! Stay tuned for new articles every month.

Shoreline Arts Alliance's 'IMAGES' in the Virtual Environment 

By: Grahm Reynolds, Anne Brenneman, Andrew Scotella, and Sushant Kunwar

Every year, Shoreline Arts Alliance is proud to host IMAGES, Connecticut's oldest and largest juried photography competition. IMAGES has occurred annually since 1980, and even Covid-19 couldn't break the tradition, as IMAGES simply adapted to a virtual setting. This year is the second time the competition will be hosted virtually. 


IMAGES allows talented photographers from across the state to display their photos and have them entered into a juried competition, fostering and uplifting the creative spirit of our local communities. This year's juror’s panel was composed of accomplished photographers Johnnie Chatman, Kristi Odom, and J. Sybylla Smith.

Nothing, not even COVID-19, was going to stop IMAGES from happening this year. As it was in the previous exhibition season, IMAGES was adapted to a virtual platform due to the pandemic. Luckily there was a silver lining to this. IMAGES being virtual enables people from across the state to more easily submit their photographs, and our jurors were able to judge the submissions from the safety of their homes -- one of whom lives all the way out in Colorado. Out of a total of nearly 1,000 submissions, our judges pulled out 132 works to display in a virtual gallery available on our website. 

IMAGES is nothing without the many talented people who submit their work, and is a testament to the variety of backgrounds that very talented photographers can come from. We had the opportunity to speak to Maureen Goss and Susanne Brandt, both First Honors winners this year. “I started my photography in a high school darkroom photography class. I continued my studies at Alfred University where I majored in Fine Art,” said Brandt. Goss had a different journey, “I was a model in New York City. I moved there when I was 21.” she explained “I was with Ford Models for about six years, five years, so I learned photography as a model.” She has been a photographer since 1981.


IMAGES has a wide variety of winning photographs, and Brandt and Goss both demonstrate this. We were lucky to have Brandt share a bit of her process with us, and discuss how she made her winning photograph. “The infrared photograph augmented by a hand applied stylus, entitled Ensemble Sur la Glace, was taken at the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada during their ‘Winterlude Holiday’...the bird's eye photograph was taken from a bridge near the beginning of the skateway. The cyanotype photograph titled “Cyano-Ice” was created this summer on the shore in Ogunquit, Maine utilizing the natural found materials such as seaweed, sea grass, salt water, [and] dried foliage, [in addition to other organic materials] said Brandt.


Goss also shared how her winning photograph was made “This particular model came up on the train and we did it in my backyard” she said “I don’t remember what her name was, but it was done in the 80s, it’s a beautiful, black and white portrait, very strong, and when I pulled it out I just - she had on a lot of jewelry, and it was in black and white, I just started to gingerly color it and then I got bolder and bolder and bolder, and that’s how I created it. It’s very pandemic inspired.” 


Susan Cappezzone is another artist who won an award at IMAGES this year, interestingly, however, she doesn’t choose to describe herself as a photographer. “I really don’t consider myself a photographer” she explained, “I am a graphic designer and use the images as part of my design process.”


As a graphic designer, Cappezzone’s submission to IMAGES is a result of years of work. “ The photo was taken a few years ago, but the collage was created the night before,” she said.


Winning IMAGES means something different to everyone. To Cappezzonne, it’s confirmation that she is on the right track. “Winning gives validation of my talent. I was surprised to get in. When I learned about the award I sat quietly for many minutes in shock! I must be honest, I needed the ego boost. However, the work is subjective. Another judge could pick another piece. So, I try not to let it go to my head,” said Cappezzone. 


Of course, one of the most important parts of IMAGES are the jurors: the people that actually judge and look over the submitted photographs. When asked what is looked for in all the submissions, juror J. Sybylla Smith said the impact of each photograph. Photos must show that unique voice that each photographer has, and must demonstrate the relationship between photographer and photo. 


“Layered intentionally,” is what Smith says describes a great photo which stands out from the average submission. Everything in the photograph must be detailed, from the smallest little object to the main focus; all must be equally important to the composition as a whole.


However, jurors are not just looking for a technically proficient photograph. According to Smith, the photographer's experience, passion, and relationship to the photo are all equally important to the process.  IMAGES is host to a variety of applicants, and the photographs demonstrate that. “I enjoy the expansiveness in entries,” Smith said. 


Judging pictures virtually is very different than judging them physically. It brings up lots of questions, such as backlit vs printed, matte vs glossy, and paper vs fabric. “Seeing it digital is different than seeing it in person,” said Smith. “Photographs are meant to be held,” she added. “Should [a photograph] be framed?” Smith said, demonstrating just how specific the questions pertaining to this issue can be. 


Even in these uncertain times, people are inspired to take up new ways to express themselves. When asked if she had any advice to aspiring photographers, Smith said “Listen to the process and what is in the photograph. Follow what lights you up.”

IMAGES may be different from years past, but at its core it remains the same thing: a photography competition for many talented photographers across the state. Competitions help to further develop the process of each artist, and IMAGES is no different. From the many great applicants to the knowledgeable jurors, IMAGES is a product of the hard work and immense talent of many individuals, and the Shoreline Arts Alliance is proud to host it. This years applicants and winners of IMAGES can be viewed here:


Historical  Pandemics and  Art

By: Anne Brenneman

In 1918, Egon Schiele began an oil painting entitled The Family, featuring himself, his wife, and his unborn child. Before he could complete it, his wife, six months pregnant, died of the Spanish Flu. His own life was taken just three days after, by the same disease.


Though the Spanish Flu is often overridden in contemporary thought and collective memory by World War I, the pandemic did not go unnoticed by artists. The disease ravaging the globe in 1918 exacerbated feelings of chaos, upheaval, and meaninglessness, and these feelings were reflected in the art of the time.

Some of the most well-known pieces regarding the Spanish Flu were portraits.

Egon Schiele painted a portrait of his mentor, Gustav Klimt, from a morgue in Vienna after he died of complications related to the flu. Edvard Munch made two self portraits, Self-Portrait With the Spanish Flu and Self-Portrait After the Spanish Flu, depicting the artist’s experience surviving the disease. However, the influence of the disease was felt on a much broader scale. For example, prominent Dadaists endeavored to combine art and design to create simultaneously artistic and useful objects. Notably, architect Walter Gropius designed several pieces of furniture that -- unlike the heavy upholstery common at the time -- were minimalistic, and made of wood and steel. Historians believe those choices were heavily influenced by the flu, as their lightweight and moveable design met the new standards required for cleaning and sanitization. 


During the Spanish Flu, collage also became a popular medium. The strategies of cutting, reassembling and remixing were appealing to artists coping with the hopelessness and absurdity that characterized the epoch. It was a time in which the Spanish Flu, World War I, the rise of communism, and many other globally significant events were combining to create an atmosphere of chaos and upheaval. The Spanish Flu killed at least 50 million people. 

A pandemic that is more deeply entrenched in art history is of course the Black Death. Much of the imagery that is so firmly entwined with the ideas of death and disease stem from outbreaks of this disease. Michael Wolgemut’s Danse Macabre was a product of this plague. The iconic visage of a plague doctor, wearing a long beaked mask and heavy robes, also stems from this era. And in fact, it was popularized by artistic imagination, rather than by widespread use. Paintings of mass burials were common, like the piece by Pierart dou Tielt depicting the people of Tournai burying victims of the Black Death in 1349. 

An interesting aspect of artwork of the Black Death is that there are no depictions of actual people suffering from the disease; likely because the sick were quarantined and artists were wary to get too close. However, this is largely unique in pandemic history. The art from this era dealt strongly with the inescapable pervasiveness of death. The Black Death killed between 75 and 200 million people.

Painting by Cassady Fullbright, senior at University of North Georgia. "I was able to glimpse into my peers' worlds. It was a portal into a different place with our own personal styles," she says.

Better Days are Coming, by Ruby Silvious, part of her COVID Blues series, 14 pieces over a 14-day self-isolation period

This last painting on the left is a depiction of Dr. Edward Jenner performing his first smallpox vaccination in 1796. Smallpox was the first viral epidemic that was ended by vaccine. On the right, we have a photograph of Margaret Kennan, the first person in the world to receive the vaccine for Covid-19. When we are faced with a worldwide death toll of over 2 million, it is easy to look at the imagery of the Spanish Flu and the Black Death and feel that sense of helplessness, to relate to the depictions of quarantines and social isolation, hospitalisations, deaths, and loved ones affected by disease. These images stand out as a glimmer of hope.


Historically, the art created during these historic pandemics are what we see when we think of these periods. However, often the instances were not widely recorded by artists. Throughout Covid-19, many artists all over the world have worked on their creative pursuits to create a lasting image of what our lives were in this time, when we were feeling hopeless and  meaningless and nihilistic, when our lives were full of turmoil and uncertainty, and so many have worked to create a message of hope. Everyone has been adapting to this new normal, and the tireless work of artists demonstrating the capacity of art to bring hope and joy in a time where these are so sparse, the unmistakable role of art in social movements and the passion it can inspire, has been a shining light in these challenging times. 


That is what makes the art of this pandemic different from the art of past plagues. While we have unprecedented understanding of the physical symptoms of this disease, rather than focusing on the turmoil and death surrounding the issue, artists have been working to create a message of hope, unity, and strength in the face of fear and adversity.

Street art honoring health care workers, @iamfake on Instagram.

Egon Schiele's  The Family,  1918

Michael Wolgemut, Dance of Death, leaf from The Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493

Ernest Board, Dr Jenner performing his first vaccination, on James Phipps, a boy of 8. May 14 1796.

90 Year old Margaret Keenan receiving the first Covid-19 Vaccine in the UK.

We spoke to Steve Van Ness -- owner and founder of Impact Arts -- last month. He started in 1989, he tells us, doing events at ski resorts in the off season. Before that, he worked for the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs in Boston, and came back later to manage Concerts on the Commons. Eventually, he went on to become one of the founders and original producers of the nationally-known music festival Gathering of the Vibes, and more generally speaking, the go-to person for a range of events. So with a breadth of experience in the industry, Van Ness is no stranger to an unpredictable business environment. Even before the pandemic hit, the rise of large corporations like LiveNation had already shifted the economy of the industry in a huge way, hurting smaller event management businesses in the process.

“So COVID comes along, and I lose a big year... [I had already] planned all kinds of events, and it all went away” said Van Ness. He was working to grow and diversify the reach of Impact Arts Events Group in Connecticut. The rise of COVID-19 had severely hindered these plans.

After hunkering down with his guitar for a month -- he is also an avid songwriter -- Van Ness realized he needed to find a way to continue working towards those yearly goals he had previously set for his company. It was a major challenge, but after some time, he started to revisualize how he could work around the pandemic safely. And with the help of Shoreline Arts Alliance, he was able to pivot the focus of his group from producing traditional events to virtual ones. 

“After that month of not doing anything, I called Eric [Dillner, CEO/Executive Director of Shoreline Arts Alliance] and he told me how they were starting to do conference calls with artists and arts organizations in the community” said Van Ness. He joined Let’s Chat, which was eventually to inspire Shoreline Arts Alliance’s Reopening CT Arts Venues Webinar Series and other pandemic-response programs, and helped to brainstorm ways to safely get the arts sector back on its feet. By helping to guide others in these workshops, Van Ness quickly realized the extent of the demand, and he began to reimagine the ways in which events could go on. “I’m an idea-person, I think outside the box, and that’s what got me to start pivoting. So we put this series together with [SAA] called Reimagining Events Virtually, with the goal of bringing the arts back to our communities,” Van Ness said.

“I worked with the New Haven Choral Event Team to help them remage their in person gala into a Virtual Gala, that's the role I play as a virtual event producer,” said Van Ness.“We do the LOEB awards – which is basically the Tony awards for business and journalism. It’s usually done in NYC, [but this year] we did the entire show virtually, with people from all over the world coming in.” 

Virtual events aren’t just different in the format, an in-person awards show and a virtual awards show are two completely unique things. “The level at which you have to interact with your audience in a virtual event makes it a lot different, and we did that in the workshops with [SAA].” said Van Ness. 

“At an in person event, people might be bored or start disengaging, but it’s unlikely they’re going to get up and leave. When they’re in their own homes – there’s really nothing stopping them. So it creates a bigger imperative to keep people engaged, and in that way virtual events are changing a lot of things for the better.” Van Ness said. “That’s part of reimagining everything. You have to completely think outside the box, and be willing to do things you’ve never done or seen done before.” 

Taken at face value, having to cancel in-person events in favor of an online alternative seems like simply one of those unfortunate realities of COVID-19. But it’s becoming more clear that there are ways to not only make these events a success, but to create new possibilities for arts events in the future. 

“There are some really great silver linings. Being virtual we could have people from all over the world join, because it’s not just in a ballroom somewhere. You lose the in-person element, but you can make it personal.” said Van Ness. His adaptive attitude is immediately clear, and as one listens to him it makes sense why these virtual events produced by Impact Arts have been so successful.

In fact, a lot of these events might continue to take place in a virtual environment, even when the pandemic is over.  “All the events we do going forward are probably going to be hybrid,” predicted Van Ness. 

“And when I’m talking to people who need to host these virtual events I tell them ‘Look, you’re artists, you’re creative by nature, this just forces you to be creative in a new way,’” Van Ness said. The artistic community is one of creative problem solvers -- Impact Arts Events Group and Shoreline Arts Alliance approach reopening with this in mind.

Van Ness cares deeply about our community, and wants to give back. He concluded his interview with a poignant message, “If there are people that are reading this and I can help them, reach out. Nevermind getting new clients, we’ve just gotta give back. We all have to take the skills that we have and share them. I think part of my success can be attributed to my willingness to do that.” We couldn’t agree more, Steve! Our devotion to “Transforming Lives Through the Arts” means that in times like these, helping our community is of the utmost importance. 
To learn more about Impact Arts Events Group or to contact Steve Van Ness, please visit or email 

From the way people go to work to the way children attend school, COVID-19 has touched all aspects of our lives. The arts are no exception. The change to a virtual environment has been quite an adjustment for many in the industry, and Shoreline Arts Alliance is proud to have assisted many local businesses in adjusting to this new world. One of those is Impact Arts Events Group.

Steve Van Ness, Owner of Impact Arts Events Group

Shoreline Arts Alliance and Impact  Arts Events Create the Model for a New Normal

By: Grahm Reynolds and Sushant Kunwar


Sponsored By

Daniel E. Offutt III, Charitable Trust 




725 Boston Post Road,

Guilford, CT 06437


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