Artist Tanya Bone’s ‘Spring Has Sprung’ is now on display in The Avenue gallery in Oak Bay. The pandemic crisis has shortened hours and forced galleries to either close or show painting by appointment only but sales are still tricky ing said Heather Wheeler, owner of The Avenue. (Tanya Bone Art)

Art galleries innovate in a time of crisis

The pandemic crisis has forced most local art galleries to shift online, and while it’s not the same experience, it’s all they can do until it’s safe for patrons to browse the storefronts again.

The Avenue Art Gallery in Oak Bay is still showing paintings by appointment but only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The gallery is otherwise open for phone sales from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and online.

“We can’t allow clients in so we are meeting them at the door, but everything in the gallery is actually on the website,” said owner Heather Wheeler. “Our artists are continuing to deliver and ship new work to the gallery which we will be sharing on our website and via our semi-monthly newsletters and on social media.”

Sales have dropped to about 10 per cent since the recent call for non-essential businesses to close in an attempt to flatten the curve and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Wheeler said.

“For us, what it is like now is the same for everyone,” Wheeler said. “We are dealing with the shock of the situation and the knowledge this will be going on for longer than at first thought, not a two-week thing.”

The good news for The Avenue and other galleries is they’ve maintained a business presence through their website and the advent of e-commerce programs for small business.

“We have had people taking advantage of online sales and we hand over the product at the door,” Wheeler said. “We do book appointments to come in, one person at a time.”

Other galleries are in a similar situation.

Madrona Gallery on View Street downtown is also open by appointment only and available daily by email or phone to assist with acquisitions and answer questions. Madrona is now featuring the Miller Collection, a selection of Inuit art carvings collected over the span of 30 years by the Miller family of Vancouver, including such artists as Pauta Saila.

Other galleries are looking to innovate, such as the Gage Gallery’s community project “Challenge Crisis with Creativity.”

The gallery is inviting members of the community to draw, paint, doodle, sculpt or write a poem at home about what they are experiencing during the social isolation period of COVID-19.

Everybody is welcome to contribute, said Gage member Gabriella Hirt.

“Take a photo of your creation and send it to us. If you wish, provide a short description of your work. Invite your kids to participate. Our weekly prompt will help you get inspired.”

Send contributions to Ashley Riddett, a University of Victoria Art History and Visual Studies graduate student who is leading the project. ​

Entries will be published on the Gage Gallery website and social media sites, and when “this” is all over, the collective is planning to compile selected submissions into a community art book.

It will show, and tell, the visual story of how people in Oak Bay and Victoria all have been coping, thriving and surviving during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Send a photo of your creation to Riddett at riddettgreen@gmail.com.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

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E.J. Hughes’ View of a Freighter - Cowichan Bay is one of the works currently at Madrona Gallery.

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