It has taken nearly a year, but Toro Martinez is finally feeling optimistic about a return to normalcy in the art world. The pandemic nearly crushed his soul and greatly damaged his art sales, but daily challenges and financial survival have also taught him many lessons.
Martinez attributes his artistic career survival to strong perseverance, strategic cost-cutting, and an ability to reinvent himself. As a means of remaining relevant and financially stable, he has joined an informal support group, “Mexican artists living in the United States,” to share ideas about how other artists are managing to remain creative and visible while most likely experiencing a decline in productivity and overall loss of income during the pandemic.
For his entire life as an artist, some 25 years, Martinez has interacted with friends and art lovers and patrons on a regular basis. Today, all of his contacts are limited to Zoom, social media, and personal email or phone. He constantly is seeking ways to remain highly visible in a very competitive world of virtual events. His participation in virtual art exhibits requires more planning than usual, as well as creative alternatives to traditional presentations.
Martinez’s move to San Antonio over two decades ago was driven by Alamo City’s prominence in the creative arts. In over a quarter century, thousands of visitors have passed through the doors of Blue Star, and more recently Lone Star Art District. Those exhibition doors were closed with the arrival of Covid-19 in mid March of 2020. That week in March, Toro Martinez was celebrating his first show ever at the Mexican Cultural Institute on the San Antonio Hemisphere grounds when Covid emerged as a serious health threat.
The hardest part of the pandemic for many Latino artists has been the steep decline in opportunities to exhibit works, drop in sales, and subsequent financial adjustments. One of Toro Martinez’s main sources of income had come from a small gallery in France that sold one or two of his paintings per month. When the art dealer and his wife both fell sick and died of Covid-19, Martinez felt devastated. He had lost two friends and an important outlet for his creative work.
While most artists do not paint solely for money, their passion to be artistically creative doesn’t always pay the mortgage, food, and utility bills. Toro Martinez is optimistic because he sees greater access to Covid vaccines, and increased openings of businesses. If that continues, he hopes there will be happier times when leisure and the arts can be enjoyed.