Jenny Miller hopes a slow return to a new kind of normal means a return to art.
Miller is the co-owner of the Dundee Arts Collective, a combination gallery, retail shop and studio space in New Dundee, Ont.
Despite the pandemic, Miller and her business partner Kate Cox opened the space last Fall to bring together art enthusiasts and local artists. Just a few months after their late September launch, the gallery was forced to close to comply with lockdown restrictions.
Miller says the conditions have been challenging and things have been slow, even after reopening in late February.
“We’re just open on weekends (right now). We wanted to ease back into it,” Miller said. “It’s slow, quite a bit slower than we expected. The united response is that people just aren’t sure about browsing. It’s weird to just pop into an art gallery and look around.”
Miller says one of the more positive aspects of being in lockdown has been the time it’s given local artists to create and come up with new projects.
“People have had so much extra time at home and we’ve had so many artists reach out to us,” she said.
One of the new artists featured at the gallery is Patti Moses from Pathways to Balance. Moses’ latest collection specializes in textile arts and includes items for sale like heated neck wraps, pillows and meditation cushions.
Miller is excited about the collection because it brings art to everyday items and into a space that is beyond a painting on the wall.
“It’s fun to see different artists bring different things to the table,” she said.
In addition to selling new pieces Miller says classes have started again with a limited number of spaces to allow in-person participants to safely social distance while practicing their craft.
The first class to re-open is a felted fibre art class. Limited to six registrants, the group is learning to create a work of visual art using felted fibre.
“They are going to create a landscape style picture using felted wool instead of paint,” Miller said.
Online classes are also being offered with a six-week long children’s program on Saturday mornings and adult classes offered as well.
Miller is hoping to add an in-person pottery class for families soon, to give participants a chance to do something fun and bond together out of the house.
“Because we’re attached to a pottery studio we have the amazing benefit of doing a lot of pottery classes and we want to get families out to learn a new skill,” she said.
Those new skills will also include outdoor classes and activities hosted by the gallery once the weather improves.
“We’re really close to the park in New Dundee and we want to do some outdoor water painting classes.”
For those looking for a new art project to tackle, but who might not be quite ready to join a group yet, Dundee Arts Collective offers some at-home options.
Currently the shop offers take-home art kits, a project they’re looking to expand with the help of a grant from the region they received in January.
“We’re working on a really fun project that we got a grant for from Waterloo Region Arts Fund,” Miller said.
Starting in May, the group will have a vending machine located outside its building. The machine will feature mini art kits designed by local artists and available for purchase for $5 each.
“We’re excited,” she said. “I think that traditionally our artists are making paintings that cost a lot more, so for them to really dial it down and do something more basic is going to be a really cool project for them to get involved with.”
The machine will work like a typical vending machine. Customers will put a bill or change in and pick a kit to take away with them.
While business has been slow, Miller says the group is staying optimistic and enjoying reconnecting with the community.
“Even though it has been so challenging, the warmer weather is only going to do good things for us and we can’t wait to get the creativity buzzing again and share our art with the people in our neighbourhood,” she said. “We have a great loyal customer base that has supported us as much as they can, and just to reconnect and feel their support has been the best part.”
Written by Elizabeth Bate