TOLEDO — While gatherings face new limitations because of the spread of COVID-19, the Toledo Arts Guild has found a way to mark the holiday season and present members’ artwork to the public.
Janet Runger, former president of the more than a decade-old guild, owns the Crow’s Nest Gallery on Main Street in Toledo, and she is carving out space for guild members to display their work at a Holiday Art Fair from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 28-29.
While Runger’s gallery regularly features her own assemblages of found objects and the work of a few other artists, she is rearranging the space for the guild show.
“I’m setting up tables for the guild members so visitors will go in a one-way direction around the shop,” she said, adding that she will have hand sanitizer at each table, and everyone in the gallery will be required to wear a mask and to practice social distancing. She noted the gallery has high ceilings and is quite spacious, making social distancing easy.
“And we’ll only allow a small number of people inside at one time,” she added.
“Each artist will be responsible for her own sales, and I’m not taking any percentage of what they make, nor is the guild,” Runger said. “This is just a place for people to make and share their art.”
Laura VanLandingham of Toledo is in charge of publicity for the guild, which today has a dozen members from throughout Lincoln County. Before COVID-19, the guild met every month in Toledo, but has not come together in person since the pandemic.
VanLandingham, who has been a member of the guild for about two years, said that before meetings stopped, the artists had been discussing venues for showing their work and debating whether to get a storefront on Main Street. Runger did just that on her own and opened her Crow’s Nest Gallery.
“That encouraged us to put our art out there, and to have make-and-take time after our meetings, with one member demonstrating an art project for the rest of us to do,” VanLandingham said.
“Janet is phenomenal,” she added. “She’s making lots of space for us in her gallery,” giving the group members an opportunity to host a holiday show in the midst of a pandemic.
Guild members showing at the holiday event are:
• Laura VanLandingham, found object hangings and articulated dolls; Val Bolen, life-size ceramic heads and glass mosaics; Valerie Jacobi, shell art; Sylvia Hosie, photography; Tish Epperson, watercolor paintings of birds and animals and plenty of bright colors; Liza Bakhtina, paintings and writings; Janet Runger, assemblages; and Alice Haga, fused glass.
“I thought it would be fun to mingle with other artists,” VanLandingham said of her decision to join the guild. “Because I wholesale my work, I tend to isolate, so it seemed like a great way to get out of the house and do something that would be interesting and fun with like-minded people.”
She looks at the opportunity for the guild to stage a holiday sale in the same way. “I thought the sale would be interesting and the space is pretty big,” she said. “I feel comfortable with the idea that we are going to be careful with social distancing. I just got excited about this idea to do something.”
Even with the governor’s latest mandate about retail shops and social distancing, VanLandingham noted, “We’re going about the show in a safe and smart manner.” The Toledo Chamber of Commerce has given the gallery a supply of face coverings for those who arrive without one.
“I’m amazed at the variety and the quality of what our locals make,” VanLandingham said. “We have a great arts community here, and I hope Janet’s gallery starts a resurgence on Main Street. It’s encouraging to see interesting things opening in the storefronts.”
“I’m a believer in brick and mortar stores,” Runger added, and she encourages shoppers to buy locally, rather than from Amazon.
Runger moved to Toledo in 2010 and knew she wanted to be part of the art world, so she joined the guild and eventually became its president. Guild members early on showed their work at the former Briseño Gallery in town.
The guild is always looking for new members; contact Laura VanLandingham at 541-336-2182 for more information. Dues are $20 per year, with the money paying for venue rental, advertising and make-and-take activities.
The Crow’s Nest Gallery is at 305 N Main St., Toledo.