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Coping with COVID 19 in the gallery world
I have been a full-time working artist in Boscawen, New Hampshire for well over 10 years, and a “part time” artist for at least 30 years. I work in the field of calligraphy and mixed media, with a special love for encaustic and collage. In 1994 I was offered the opportunity to create a totally new studio space and a gallery space. This was my dream! I wanted to offer local artists a chance to display their work, open spaces for art and craft workshops, and a working space for art groups to meet. I was hoping that If I could remind adults of how important and fun the arts are in their lives, that they would get excited at nurturing their creativity and remember to support the art and music programs in our local school district.
With that in mind I created TWIGGS Gallery in 2015. I was able to purchase our old town office building for one dollar and move it across the street for the main building and then added a space on for the gallery and full cellar. With this move it created a wonderful open space on the main floor of the building with great light and flexible hanging areas, a small retail area for my calligraphy and fun gifts and papers, and three workshop spaces. My studio is on the lower floor with a spacious area that allows me plenty of room to work on multiple pieces at a time.
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One of the smartest moves I made was hiring Laura Morrison (yes, our WCA president) to be the TWIGGS’ gallery director. She brought with her the skills to put together shows, create and plan advertising and social media, and develop our full line of classes. What fun we have had together…..and in the process of growing Twiggs Gallery into a creative venue we have joined the Capital Regions rapidly growing art community.
And no, it has not all been easy. Certainly 2020 was a challenge. Faced with how to handle COVID 19 and all its restrictions meant a huge number of changes. In March we had to totally cancel our 32 spring classes, but what was incredible, was well over 90% of those that signed up rolled their class fees over until fall. That truly kept us operating for a very tough six months. We did receive a PPP grant which also helped, but we still had to cut back our hours to lower our overhead. Throughout the spring and summer, we found that people were reluctant to go out in public. We also realized that we had to change our show dates and postpone other shows for 2021.
By August we had created layouts in our workshop rooms that would accommodate six feet social distancing, mandatory masks, and plenty of sanitizer wipes. Our shows were regulated with ten people in at a time and the “bribing” of individually packaged foods and chairs to sit and talk amongst fellow visitors outside on the lawn. It was a struggle. We filled our smaller in person fall classes, but teaching had to be changed with demos only and no hand’s on interaction. In November we were able to have an extraordinary artist’s event, the Route 3 Art Trail, with local craftspeople opening their studios within the area, creating a new opportunity for the community to have a hands-on chance to see artists at their craft, and to be able to touch and purchase crafts.
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Because COVID 19 turned back into a fast-spreading disease in November, we made the decision to close again from mid-December to mid-April 2021. We are in hopes that by March we will be able to see if the vaccines are being given efficiently and helping. We also hope that the State loosens the restrictions on crowd entry. We will still be prepared with free masks, hand sanitizers, and well-ventilated areas. I will be applying for another PPP loan, as our 2020 losses were considerable, and hoping the state of NH will be offering some more additional help for brick-and-mortar galleries and stores. We are learning to be flexible and realize that our plans may again change in the spring, and plan to allow easy changes in our class schedule, show schedule, and opening dates.
Creating TWIGGS and my studio has certainly been a learning experience, but it has allowed me to see a dream to fruition and keep me in my wonderful studio to further expand my creativity. Looking forward to a new world when COVID 19 is no longer a threat to each of us.
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