The Art Trust Gallery at Meridian BankLiz Ruff
Art will find a way.
Shortly after The Art Trust Gallery at Meridian Bank hosted the Opening Reception for the “Figurative” exhibit, COVID-19 shutdowns began. The days of 100+ people, sipping wine and rubbing elbows with artists and fellow patrons quickly became a thing of the past. Plans for the remaining exhibits in 2020 fell by the wayside as well.
So, how does a gallery stay true to its mission and continue to be viable during a pandemic?
Outside the Box
From its inception in 2006, The Art Trust has had a reputation for thinking outside the box. This nonprofit, volunteer-based organization supports and cultivates the exploration of a contemporary aesthetic to benefit artists and the community. In a unique partnership, the corporate sponsor, Meridian Bank, funds 100% of the gallery’s operating budget, freeing The Art Trust to donate net proceeds of sales to art scholarships, grants and sponsorships.
The gallery’s exhibits are one-of-a kind as well—a T-shirt exhibit, where T-shirts were silk-screened on site; an exhibit pairing poets and artists collaborating on visual, written and spoken art; an exhibit with an interpretive dancer moving in response to the display of ceramic bowls.
With the advent of COVID-19, these same creative minds went to work—to re-think norms and transform a physical space and experience to a virtual one. The new plan started by bringing the gallery on-line and adding e-commerce, so art could be viewed and paid for remotely.
The Art Trust then launched the concept of the Art Raffle—for a $10 raffle ticket, patrons had a chance to win a piece of original art. This gave the gallery the opportunity to sell the work and pay their artists. Plus it was fun! There was a hunger for all kinds of fun with the dawning realization of being stuck at home.
As the impact of COVID became more apparent, everyone suffered. But marginalized communities were hardest hit.
In “Art, for Goodness’ Sake,” the gallery partnered with Stickeraffiti street artist @cassiusking with proceeds benefitting the Chester County Food Bank. The physical gallery space was closed but @cassiusking’s art could be “discovered” walking around town.
The gallery continued the Art Raffle through the summer and added a weekly Instagram Live show titled “Eat, Drink & Be Artsy.” Hosts toasted the artist, drew raffle winners and talked about art, the gallery and the Food Bank.
With an exhibit schedule to fill, the gallery tapped past and present board members who were artists. The “Unmasked” exhibit included a physical installation at the gallery, despite knowing that visits would be limited, if allowed at all. Instead, The Art Trust added a vignette video series titled “WYWH” (Wish You Were Here), which toured the gallery to replicate an in-person visit. In partnership with the artists, 90% of the Art Raffle sales benefitted The Melton Center.
And the good keeps going. Running through November 6, The Art Trust’s “CELEBRATE! Art Ability” exhibit features talented contemporary artists from Bryn Mawr Rehab’s “Art Ability” consignment collection, celebrating its 25th year. Opening on November 7, the exhibit is an integral part of Bryn Mawr Rehab’s mission and a year-round showcase of artists with cognitive, physical, hearing or visual disabilities. The Art Trust is excited to share this sneak peek at the quality of work exhibited there.
Watch for another new initiative, “MaskUPShowUP!” with on-site, timed, small-group tours, complete with personal bento boxes of wine and snacks. Registration is required, and safe, social-distancing measures will guide the planning.
Art brings joy and light to people—especially important in difficult times. The Art Trust continues to creatively adjust to new challenges with a unique approach to exhibiting and selling art. When people can’t come to the gallery, The Art Trust will find a way to bring art to them.
The Art Trust Gallery at Meridian Bank, 16 W. Market St., West Chester. TheArtTrust.com. Follow them on Instagram & Facebook.
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