ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — When the pandemic started and the world closed up shop, artist Gina Marie Foti thought she was doomed.
"We tried to pivot," Foti said. "What we did was started changing up some of our outreach. Started going out on a line a bit, connecting with people."
Foti realized that the pandemic fueled a desire for businesses to create more artistic spaces inside and outside.
"I would say art absolutely impacts a business. It shows their community involvement," Foti said. "And we had to choose which designs or which people we would work with because of the amount of work that came in."
"I will tell you I was really surprised at the support to me at this time. I know the businesses I've done projects for during this period have been impacted themselves, but they made an effort to go and hire me," Foti added. "For that, I am truly grateful it was really a community effort."
Finding work during this pandemic has been a challenge for millions of Americans. But, Foti was able to hire an assistant to keep up with demand.
"I have lots of friends who do not have work right now," Ann Johnson said.
Johnson graduated in May from the Savannah College of Art and Design.
"When I graduated, she was like hey do you need a job? I was like most definitely I would love to work for you," Johnson said. "Having a connection is so important within the art community in general, and just being able to continue these connections during COVID and to build each other up and move forward and keep creating."
Foti's art studio is full of unique old relics. All items she's stored and held onto for inspiration, waiting for the right project to come here way.
A few months ago, she collaborated with another artist for a project at the Worklodge in Downtown St. Pete. She used computer boards that were in storage for six years as the main thematic elements.
"A lot of my girlfriends are like go more, go big, or go further. You can do this, and that energy got really addictive to me," Foti said.
Gina's Warehouse, the name of her studio, is now known as a place for artists to create, grow, and display their work. She's recently turned it into a classroom when they hold virtual workshops, a blend of real-life and classroom learning for aspiring creators.
"So many people had come to me, 'how do you spray paint, how do you paint, how can I learn this, how do you weld?'" Foti said. "In social media, I got a lot of attention in this stuff cause people got to see the creation, and that's a very powerful thing."
The power of Foti's art is catching on, and she hopes everyone can create their way out of COVID and take a chance on something new.
"It's really important for me to just live every moment to the fullest and connect with people as much as I can," Foti said. "I want people out there to stumble their way into 2021 together and do it awkwardly."