Despite being shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic barely a month after it opened to the public, the new Gutman Gallery in downtown Ann Arbor is still going strong through both in-person and online sales.
The Guild of Artists and Artisans, producers of the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair, opened the gallery at 118 N. Fourth Ave. in February 2020. Before the gallery's grand opening, the space was used as storefront storage for the Ann Arbor Art Fair. It now does triple duty as a gallery, a shop, and a public space for workshops and events.
"We are so excited to have this opportunity to further our mission to provide marketing opportunities for artists," says Karen Delhey, the guild's director.
Delhey adds that the guild owns the building and there have been a few shifts in usage over the years. At one time, her organization rented the upstairs to an architect and used the downstairs area for guild offices. When the architect moved out, the guild reclaimed the upper level.
In 2016, Delhey became the guild's director and set plans in motion for the space to better serve the guild's mission.
"Originally, the vision was to be small and just use it as a community space," Delhey says. "As we looked at the need and responses we received from the arts community it really has taken the form of a true gallery."
The space is currently split with rotating exhibits in the front while the back houses a shop. Delhey says the gallery offers a rather unique opportunity for artists.
"Normal galleries will charge an artist anywhere from 40-50% commission to sell their work. Because we own the building and because of our mission to artists, we're able to do it at 20-25%," she says.
Visitors will also find the shop friendly to various budgets, with prices ranging from $25 to thousands of dollars.
Much to Delhey's delight, public support for the gallery has been steadily ramping up, despite the pandemic's challenges. The gallery shut its doors temporarily from March to July 2020, but she describes the timing as "fortuitous." Although staff hadn't planned to put the gallery online until 2021, they quickly pivoted and made that a reality very shortly after the state shut down non-essential businesses. Interest in offerings such as virtual workshops and online shopping parties has been steady, and Delhey says support for the gallery's recent holiday artists' fair "was just gangbusters."
"It drove home the fact that we are really needed in the community, especially as we are seeing longstanding galleries close their doors," she says. "We're looking forward to continuing to grow the Gutman not only for our local artists, but for the good of our community."
The Gutman Gallery is open for in-person visits Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m - 5 p.m. Precautions such as extra cleaning and capacity limits have been put in place for visitors. Private in-person viewings of exhibits can also be arranged. The gallery's online shop is available here.
For more Concentrate coverage of our community's response to the COVID-19 crisis, click here.
Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of the Guild of Artists and Artisans.