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During pandemic, artists get creative


GALENA–The pandemic forced storefronts to close their doors for months, causing Galena artists to rethink business plans in order to survive.

Many galleries shifted focus to their online sales and offered delivery or curbside pickup. Artists learned how to teach classes virtually and build partnerships within the community.

Paul Pendola, artist and owner of Galena Spoon Co. on Prospect Street, used quarantine to revamp his marketing strategies and online store, as well as spend more time in the studio building inventory.

“It was nice to have time to step back and just create,” Pendola said.

Pendola said he took advantage of the extra time and found new retail partners to sell his wood creations. Other local businesses were looking to expand their inventories, so the partnership benefitted both parties equally.

“I put some of my products in bed & breakfasts and guest houses as they’re starting to reopen,” Pendola said. “People can purchase those items directly on-site.”

The Galena Center for the Arts has also been learning, growing and getting creative. Executive director Carole Sullivan said the pandemic and subsequent closure took center officials by surprise and hurt finances severely.

“We received virtually no income in the first quarter,” Sullivan said. “This is the first time in our history that we’ve had a loss instead of a gain.”

With in-person events cancelled indefinitely, the Center for the Arts is working on virtual art platforms. They plan to have a virtual art exhibit on their website and will post a songwriters showcase every Thursday.

Sullivan said she expects many songs and works of art to come out of this time. The Center for the Arts wants artists to survive and prosper, but they are not prematurely rushing to reopen.

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“The Center for the Arts brings people together, and we just can’t do that safely right now,” Sullivan said.

The plan is to release a series of videos in July that cover past and future events. Organizers are challenging themselves to learn how to create art that is virtually accessible.

Sullivan said the Center for the Arts has been grateful to receive notes from people who miss the programming.

“I think we are doing the best that we can,” Sullivan said. “We’re not planning on going away.”

Pendola is also hopeful for the coming months as the state slowly reopens. He credits the community of artists in town with coming together to develop a recovery plan.

“I think it’s important for artists to participate in bodies like Galena Area Chamber of Commerce, Galena Downtown Business Association, Northwest Illinois Economic Development and Galena Country Tourism because it’s how our voices are heard,” Pendola said.

Pendola said he will most likely move his public studio to the Spoon Carver Cottage’s outdoor patio permanently because it’s safer for everyone.

Pendola is already taking holiday orders and anticipates he will be busy for the rest of the year. August wood carving classes are still on with social distancing. Pendola said the pandemic did not change his classes very much because class sizes are always small.

Presently, Galena Spoon Co. is open weekends 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by chance or appointment during the week. A mask-clad Pendola can be found working on the outdoor patio, and he encourages visitors to wear masks as well.

He also encourages people to visit the Galena Spoon Co. website and order online for curbside pick up or delivery.