Experiencing art just got more convenient for Methow Valley residents and visitors, with the reopening of the Winthrop Gallery last Friday (June 19). Although it is a “modified reopening,” says gallery board president and member artist Don McIvor, the Riverside Avenue gallery is open Friday through Monday each week, staffed by a member artist.
An artist cooperative, the Winthrop Gallery has been open since 1998, and currently consists of 22 members. “A significant part of our membership is in the high-risk category [for contracting COVID-19], which means we’re running on about half-staff,” says McIvor. “But we have a dozen members who are willing to sit in the gallery, so we prioritized which days we’ll be open. Instead of being open every day, we’ll be open 16 days a month.”
“It’s a bit of a new situation for everyone,” McIvor says, “especially since we had a turnover on our board just as the pandemic and the subsequent restrictions hit. As a board, we’ve had to grapple with guidelines from the state as well as working with our membership to understand what restrictions each board member has and whether they can participate in running the gallery.”
Gallery members who are not able to sit their required shifts, says McIvor, will temporarily forfeit a higher percentage of commission to the gallery. Once they resume staffing duties, they will return to lower commission rates. “It’s not personal,” McIvor says. “We’re all aware of the need to keep the gallery on stable footing in an unstable time.”
McIvor mentioned conversations about the politicization and polarization surrounding mask use; however, in the gallery’s initial opening weekend, artist members report that “everyone was wearing masks,” as per the gallery’s requirement. “Everyone complied voluntarily,” McIvor says. “Visitors were courteous and seemed comfortable. It was just like a normal day, except everyone was wearing masks.” Sales too, says McIvor, were brisk, which was reassuring to member artists, many of whom live exclusively on art sales.
The current show hanging in the Winthrop Gallery is “Road Less Traveled,” and it is available for both in-person and online viewing (at http://winthropgallery.com/index.php/nggallery/slideshow); however, because the previous show was not available to the public, some pieces of the April show remain in the exhibit. “It’s a hybrid,” McIvor says of the current exhibit, which was curated by the gallery’s curatorial team of member artists Tamera Abate, Laura Karcher, and Teri Pieper.
About the revamped schedule and keeping a business open under pandemic restrictions McIvor says, “There’s some anxiety, but it’s not unique to the Winthrop Gallery. We’re all just trying to keep ourselves and our customers safe.”