OCA Mocha has become home to many artists’ creations. The coffee shop hosts ongoing galleries and art events throughout the year, including an exhibit focused on environmental sustainability just this past January through March. The cafe has given an opportunity for University of Maryland Baltimore County’s artists to display and share their art outside of UMBC’s campus, favoring the exploration of different avenues when it comes to introducing one’s own art to multiple and various communities. However, recent changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic have shut down OCA Mocha, leaving the walls of its planned exhibitions barren.
In an effort to keep the promotion of student art alive, OCA Mocha has decided to introduce an online exhibition. Hannah Bashar, art history and biology major expected to graduate in spring 2020, is the arts intern behind the upcoming online exhibition. With her position at OCA Mocha, Bashar has a variety of responsibilities including rotating exhibitions, installing artwork, calling out for artists to submit to the exhibitions along with many other tasks. She had great ideas planned for the spring semester including an Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day pop-up exhibit and performance night. However, given that URCAD also converted to an online format, Brashar adjusted her plans to fit the current climate, not letting the pandemic take away artists’ chances to be showcased in an exhibit.
In response to the virtual exhibit, Brashar said, “When OCA mocha closed, I thought this dream could never be realized, but now it can – just in a different format! I really want to use this opportunity to promote artists because they’ve been hit pretty hard during this pandemic. Before I had this internship, I’d always look at my friends’ artworks and be like, ‘wow, I really wish I could put that up on a wall for the world to see’, and now that I’m in a position where I can do that, I was to help artists to achieve that dream.”
The upcoming wave of art has been tasked with presenting non-figurative portraits. Artists are challenged to imagine and create portraitures beyond a traditional form. Prompting abstract thought, this call is open to all artists and gives their creations an opportunity to be featured on OCA Mocha’s social media pages.
Students who want to submit their art for consideration for the upcoming online exhibit should email their creations to firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions are due by Wednesday, April 22. Other guidelines can be found at https://ocamocha.com/upcoming-exhibits.
Brashar has also made efforts to translate the other OCA Mocha-based art events onto an online format. For example, Brashar has successfully set up online sessions with the OCA Mocha Kids Club, which she describes as “a OCA-Mocha-generated club that promotes education through hands-on activities.” In previous, in-person sessions, the OCA Mocha Kids Club has worked on activities in collaboration with UMBC’s Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture aimed at teaching the club members about cultural appropriation. The session went hand in hand with “The Museum of the Old Colony” exhibit the CADVC hosted. Tackling important ideas in modern culture, the accomplishments and lessons of the OCA Mocha Kids Club makes a point towards the importance of keeping such activities alive, even in the midst of this pandemic.
It looks as though the rewards of virtualization show promise for the continuation of these implemented changes after COVID-19 has calmed down. Brashar commented, “I definitely want to take this digitization of art with us into the future after the pandemic because it’ll increase accessibility of our gallery works, and it keeps in line with OCA Mocha’s mission of supporting and establishing ties with the surrounding community. Accessibility is a pretty big issue within the Museum field, so I aim to be a forerunner in that advocacy effort by employing developments in the intersections of accessibility and technology.”
Although the pandemic shut down OCA Mocha’s in-person events, great effort has been made to keep the OCA Mocha community alive on an online platform. Artists are still encouraged to showcase their creations through a digitized platform, and that opportunity has shown the resilience of those at UMBC who are passionate about sharing art.