Finding opportunity in adversity

The Knox Art Show went ahead as planned, only entirely online.

By Rajeev Wadhwa, President, Rotary Club of Rowville-Lysterfield, Melbourne, Australia

When social distancing rules took effect in our area, we shifted to virtual meetings without missing a single meeting. We knew we needed to keep club members engaged and happy in these uncertain times. So even though some of our planned events could not proceed, we knew one event was just too important to let go.

Taking the art show online

The Rotary Club of Bayswater has run the Knox Art Show for the past 45 years. This year, the event was run as a collaboration between the Rotary clubs of Rowville-Lysterfield and Bayswater. The show normally has two components; a physical art gallery and an opportunity to view art online through www.Gallery247.com.au. When it became clear that we could not move forward with our physical exhibition, our combined boards met and discovered that Gallery 247 is well equipped and capable of running the art show 100% online.

We had already received all the artwork in a digital format from our artists. Our judge was willing to do his judging online. We discussed the idea with our sponsors and artists, and they were delighted that the show was still proceeding.

To promote the change, we:

  • Produced stickers advertising the Virtual Art Show and placed them on the physical signs that were around town
  • Created new posters
  • Updated our website
  • Extended the duration of the show to two weeks (instead of two days)
  • Sent out newsletters to artists, sponsors, art lovers, family and friends

It was not difficult to set up. Gallery 247 offered both technical and implementation support, and one of our Rotarians was able to set up the virtual gallery without any programming skills.

In this, our 46th year of holding the Knox Art show, we had over 300 artists participate. We had more than 5,100 visitors to the online gallery, five times as many visitors as we typically get during the previous five years. People were able to purchase both paintings and photos of the artwork online.

We learned a lot in a limited amount of time and are keen to have both a virtual and in-person art show next year. 

Virtual ANZAC service

We recently conducted a virtual ANZAC service (25 April) to honour and to pay tribute to all those who have served our nation in times of war, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. We had 95 people register, and the service was even put on a big screen in a retirement village. It was well received. We are now keen to conduct this service every year and make it available to wider groups including other retirement villages.

While new situations like the COVID-19 pandemic pose challenges, they also offer opportunities. And as Rotarians, we need to be ready to seize these. Some of the opportunities we found through having an online format were:

  • Being able to easily invite Rotarians from other clubs, regardless of physical distance.
  • Inviting speakers from anywhere in the world, raising the bar on our speaker presentations.
  • Engaging vulnerable communities and sections of our society who may be feeling isolated and unable to connect in-person through their usual support networks.

During these challenging times, I encourage all Rotary clubs to meet online, support members through ongoing fellowship, and look for the new opportunities that are emerging.

We’ve discovered the motto “When life throws lemons at you, make lemonade,” I hope you do too.

Check out how Rotary clubs are taking action during the pandemic and add your stories to social using #RotaryResponds

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