Winter has officially arrived and the days have officially started to lengthen – yes! While news of the pandemic and national politics may not always be bright, here on the Addison County arts scene, there is some very good news to share.
“It’s a very strange thing,” said Theresa Harris, director of the Edgewater Galleries in Middlebury, “we’ve had a really wonderful year – one of our strongest years yet.”
“It was fabulous,” said Terry Racich, director of Art on Main in Bristol. “We have exceeded our sales every month this year, starting in 2019.
Stacey Stanhope Dundon of the Brandon Artists Guild has also seen the boom in Brandon. “It really started in mid-June,” she said. “We have seen sales like we have never seen before. “
And in Vergennes, Justine Jackson and Sophie Pickens saw their numbers “steadily increase” at the Northern Daughters Gallery on Main Street.
Now no one is complaining, but that kind of success was not exactly what these gallery owners expected in the second year of the COVID pandemic.
“It seems to me what happened was because people were more confined to their homes, they wanted to improve their space,” Harris suggested. “Or maybe because our clientele couldn’t travel, she focused on her house and made new purchases.”
Another avenue that developed for Edgewater was their home consultations.
“So many city folks bought homes here in Vermont, or did renovations, and they wanted the space to be fully furnished,” Harris said. “So we did a lot more consulting in 2021.”
Harris has the ability to create digital displays so clients can virtually view the artwork hanging on their walls. Or if people are comfortable with her in their space, she loads the van and brings options to the location in person.
“We try things, we make things happen,” she said. “And our customers are allowed to live with a room for a little while to ‘try it out’.”
In Bristol, Racich saw coffee mugs, pottery and scarves sell the best, as well as the work of Lee Mahony – a carpenter new to Art on Main.
“I think part of that is because everyone’s purchasing privileges were nipped in the bud in 2020,” Racich said. “Another part of it was that tourism has grown this year, which has been a huge contribution to our numbers this summer. For some reason people buy local and it’s pretty exciting… We are so incredibly grateful to the tourists and locals who have supported us so much.
In Brandon, Dundon said she was unsure whether BAG’s success was because people were catching up a year without shopping, more tourists were coming to the area, or whether locals were just happy to go out. . “Whatever it is,” she said, “that was a great combination.”
“It’s been an amazing year for art sales,” said Beth Svenningsen, a watercolor artist who joined BAG this year. “In just eight months of exhibiting at the gallery, I have sold many original paintings, large and small. It’s very encouraging for an artist and for the fine arts community.
“As an exhibitor member who has ‘worked in the gallery’ a few times a month for about 20 years now, I have witnessed how our extended local community – as well as tourists from far beyond – have wonderfully supported the Brandon Artists Guild, “added Middlebury Painter Mike Mayone.” With their interest, their purchases and their generosity, we have weathered the storms of recession, years of delays in building infrastructure and roads major across our city, and right now the pandemic… and not only are we holding our ground firmly, we are improving. ”
Northern Daughters also saw this improvement, although the Vergennes Gallery has been mostly open by appointment throughout the pandemic.
“We look forward to being able to have more hours of operation in the future when the daily number (COVID) of cases drops (hopefully in 2022),” Jackson and Pickens said. “We saw that people still really want to live with art and that it’s something that people look to for all kinds of food.”
Edgewater, BAG, and Art on Main all share NoDa’s hope for more openness and community engagement, but we’ve been through this before and if the climate isn’t safe to meet in person, these galleries are ready to use their digital tools and COVID-safe protocols to continue selling local art.
“I just hope the buying trend continues,” Dundon said. “I look forward to 2022 and I have no doubts that it will be a great year – there is no reason not to.”