For many of the area’s art galleries, the Covid-19 crisis has taken a toll. But it has also provided the already creative among us the opportunity to adapt and reassess ways to share art with a welcoming community while still providing artists themselves a means to share and sell their work in a tough economy.
With art fairs and festivals all but eliminated from 2020, galleries provide a good venue to display and sell their pieces.
Crestwoods meets Challenge
“Traffic has definitely slowed down, and we can’t have any openings,” said Ann Shive, owner of Crestwoods Frame Shop and Gallery in Roanoke. “The good thing about our specific gallery is that we have a large space so when we do have people — and it’s usually only one or two at a time — there is plenty of room for them to distance. Unless we have a big crowd, we won’t have any problems with social distancing here.”
While some galleries and museums have switched to an online set of offerings, Crestwoods had an additional challenge in that realm.
“One of the issues we had was that right before the shutdown, we were going to redo our website,” Shive said. “That business had to close down, too, so our web designer wasn’t able to continue with that update.
“But we were able to sell some things on Facebook and Instagram. The gallery business is a challenge on a good day, and we have a framing business here, too, that came to a screeching halt.”
Now reopened since May, Shive is looking for ways to keep up the business while adapting certain aspects of it.
“I can’t quite figure out how to have an opening right now,” she said. “We could have an open house, and the artists could come when they could stop by. Our regular open houses would go 2-5 or 5-7, but we need to avoid any larger crowds so we have to see how that will work in the fall.”
Orchard Blooms where it’s planted
Sue Davis, executive director of the Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, is encountering many of those same unknowns as she and her board of fellow artists navigate the rest of 2020 and beyond.
“This spring we had this cool themed exhibit, Moon, Sun, and Stars, and we had had the spring reception the first weekend in March,” Davis said. “It was our best spring reception in our 30-year history, and people were so enthusiastic, and then in mid-March we had to close. We understood that we needed to do that, and that it was important.
“When it came time to reopen in May, we got feedback from our members. We’re a cooperative, owned and staffed by 16 artists, and we voted on this like we vote on everything. The majority wanted to come back. We’re masked, and we’ve shortened our hours to 11-4 [Monday-Saturday] for now. It’s not like we’re going to have 50 people here. We might have three customers at a time right now.”
As she looks beyond this summer — and Davis said that November and December are their busiest months — there is still so much yet to be determined.
“No one wants to close again, but we will if we have to,” she said. “Our customers have been amazing, and they’ve come in to buy things. I think a lot of people were home alone and looking at their walls and wanted to bring in some art. It’s been very satisfying, but the future is still very uncertain.
“We usually have our biggest months around the holidays and have a reception in December. But it’s hard to imagine that we’ll have anything like that this December. Those events are wall-to-wall people and food and beverages. I know that’s not going to happen this year, so we have to decide how we want to do that. Do we want to spread it out over a few days so there aren’t as many people? And how much work do we want to bring in? Probably less than we have in the past.”
Currently exhibiting the work of a guest artist, Stevie Ross, who focuses on abstract art in acrylic and watercolor, Orchard will continue that exhibit through July and will play the rest of the year by ear.
“We’re just going to keep trying to do what we usually do, and we’ll play it by ear.”
Artlink is also adapting its plan for the rest of the year, and a big part of that has been the move of Taste of the Arts to a completely online event.
Their other exhibits have also moved online to a great extent.
“Our May exhibits were canceled because of the pandemic, but we still want to support the artists as much as possible,” said Megan Maynard, exhibitions coordinator at Artlink. “We’ve been moving online with virtual tours on our website. For those who come into the gallery, we have masks available and hand sanitizer, and we’re enforcing distancing. We’ve had to be as adaptable as possible, and we’re very careful so that no one’s safety is compromised. The switch to online has taken the most time.
“We also have been very involved with Taste of the Arts, and we’ve run the Art Market,” Maynard continued. “That’s been canceled this year, so now it’s an online event. We’re still working with businesses and vendors and redirecting them to that. Plein Air is still sending three national artists, and they’ll be outside [on the plaza] during that event.”
Still to come this year is the Member Showcase. Now in its 42nd year, Artlink wants to still enjoy that popular exhibit while remaining adaptable to the fluid situation.
“If we’re open and don’t have to shutdown again — and we’re always listening and thinking about how to keep people safe — we are hoping to have 90 pieces to share on Facebook and our website.”
While some flexibility on the part of the galleries and the visitors is needed, seeing art is a worthy reason to be open to the changes.
“What a difference art makes in our lives,” Shive said. “People just need to visit because we have something for everyone.”
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