In January 2020, the Attleboro Arts Museum posted a national call-for-artists requesting original responses to the theme On the Surface. Submissions were collected online with a mid-April deadline. As work funneled in from artists throughout the United States, organizers of the exhibition were contending with the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic, a mandatory Museum shut-down, cancellations of events and educational programs, and determining how – or if – to move forward with the exhibition. Interestingly, the extraordinary times did not appear to make a dent in the number of pieces submitted for consideration. 561 images of original art made their way to the Museum’s online collection system, as opposed to 469 for Suzanne Stumpf, “Breast Project” a national juried show in 2019. 

Granted, themes from year-to-year change, but the strong response by artists, despite a pervading crisis, is noteworthy.

Guest juror Neal Walsh, a practicing artist and gallery director for AS220 in Providence, RI, digitally combed through the 561 submitted works and ultimately selected 115 pieces created by 106 artists spanning 32 states. Fortunately, the Museum’s national shows have been juried online for the past 5+ years, so Walsh’s critique process did not need to be adjusted.   The exhibit was originally scheduled to open in the Museum’s Ottmar Gallery on June 18th.

Ultimately, the judgment to move On the Surface online was made after factoring in health and safety regulations and how feasible it would be for artists from all over the country – some living in COVID-19 hot spot locations – to ship their selected work to the Museum.  “Under such extenuating circumstances, offering a virtual exhibition is a solid alternative to postponing or cancelling a much-anticipated show” states Mim Brooks Fawcett, Attleboro Arts Museum Executive Director and Chief Curator. 

Fawcett adds “I know of several artists that began creating a piece for On the Surface when the theme was announced last summer.

It would be a shame not to allow art to be seen in some shape or form, particularly at a time when we all need to stretch our minds and can benefit from connecting with creativity.”  

On the Surface is the Museum’s second exhibition that migrated from in-gallery to virtual status since the spread of the Coronavirus. 

On April 9th Take a Stand: Voices of the New England Sculptors Association opened online with 48 virtual sculptural forms.

That show, originally scheduled to be online for 4 weeks, was extended by popular demand for an additional month. Ordinarily this would not be possible as the Museum’s gallery space is booked for nearly 4 years in advance, but virtual gallery space is flexible and is available as needed.   

View the On the Surface by visiting


The exhibition offers original visual works that contend with the literal and figurative prickly points of life alongside sharp seascapes and still life compositions. These pieces prove that viewing art, whether in-gallery or online, is a gift. 

Decades of research suggest that art can improve moods, reduce pain, and even create a feeling that is similar to falling in love.  Fawcett remarks, “These days, I think we’d all welcome those positive sensations.”  


The Attleboro Arts Museum involves audiences of all ages and backgrounds in the visual arts through diverse educational programs and engaging arts experiences. We work to support the creative and artistic development of both promising and professional artists. The Museum is a privately supported, non-profit arts institution whose core commitment to Arts for Everyone guides the Museum’s programs and operations.