While galleries remain closed to foot traffic in accordance with social distancing requirements, many local artists – the artists showcased at Pottery Place Plus among them – have started to feel their incomes dwindle.
Pottery Place Plus co-op president Amy Wharf explained that, in addition to loyal local patrons, a great deal of the gallery’s business depends on conventions and tourism. The sudden lack of so much business and the worry that it would take an uncomfortable amount of time to rebuild has forced the co-op to get creative.
“Some of us are lucky enough to have our displays in the window,” Wharf said. Each year, three artists win a spot in the store window, but the rest are only visible from inside. That is until this week.
After hearing about the curbside pick-up service implemented by their neighbors at Auntie’s Bookstore, the co-op team jumped on a Zoom call to find out whether they might be able to do something similar.
“We had to figure out a way to let people see what’s in our gallery,” Wharf said. A virtual gallery seemed the obvious choice to help them reach local and remote customers.
The co-op is staffed entirely by artists. They take turns carrying out various duties for the co-op, covering the register, running social media, sweeping the floors and chairing the board. None of them are employed by the co-op; they’re all part owners.
“We wouldn’t have survived this long as a gallery without the support of the community, all the regular customers who love our gallery,” Wharf said.
The ability to “spread the labor around” has made it possible for the group to keep their gallery running for 42 years. Pottery Place Plus is the longest continually operating artist co-op in the Inland Northwest. “And everyone still has time to create their artwork,” Wharf said.
None of the artists work at the gallery full time, which, until recently, had been more of an advantage than disadvantage. But now, with the restrictions of quarantine and limits placed on the distribution of federal funds and organization grants, the co-op has struggled.
“As president, I’ve tried to find a silver lining to all of this, and I think it is that it’s forcing us to think creatively and come up with new ideas. It’s also given us the time to actually pursue those ideas, so that’s what we’re doing. We’re here to stay.”
To view their collection of displays, visit the virtual gallery at potteryplaceplus.com. If you find something you would like to purchase, call the gallery, and the artist on duty will answer questions about the art, complete the sale and prepare your piece or pieces for pick-up.
When you arrive to pick up your purchase, park in the loading zone on the east side of the Liberty Building, call the gallery, and an associate will bring your purchases to you.
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