“As disappointing as the delay was, the project was a lifesaver for me as an artist when the pandemic hit,” Irwin said. It helped pay the bills.

Art residencies near and far are an important income source for Irwin, who works as an author, children’s book illustrator, muralist, mentor to at-risk youths and more in any given year. The pandemic shut down all revenue streams involving travel.

Irwin’s inspiration for “Goldfinch Gates” came from nature itself.

“The whole thing in artFITS is how a piece will interact with the space,” Irwin said. “It was important to go there and walk and think about what I wanted to do.”

She loved the sight of goldfinches flitting about, seemingly leading her down the trail.