After seven months of solitude, the Newport Visual Arts Center galleries will reopen Saturday, Oct. 24. Gallery hours for the start-up are Wednesdays and Saturdays, from noon to 4 p.m.
VAC director Tom Webb said he is excited about the reopening of the facility, which is owned by the city of Newport and managed by Oregon Coast Council for the Arts (OCCA). “It’s definitely been odd to be in the gallery when no one else is here,” he said last week. “I feel like I’ve lived with the exhibits in a very intimate way, with no one else coming into the building.”
The exhibits that opened briefly in March — “A Sense of Place in the Pacific Northwest: Work by Greg Pfarr” in the downstairs Runyan Gallery, and “Postcards from Nineveh: Photomontages by Friderike Heuer” in the Oregon Visual Artists Showcase Gallery (COVAS) — will continue on display through November, followed by the annual Pushpin Show in December and the Mayors’ Show in January. The Book Arts Festival, an annual event that was canceled because of COVID-19, will likely be rescheduled in 2021. And beginning Oct. 31, visitors will be able to preview items in the upcoming Nye Beach Banner Auction.
Pfarr’s exhibit features a series of paintings and etchings of the high-alpine Cascade Mountain Range and Alaska. His work was recently honored by the Oregon Arts Commission with an exhibit at the governor’s office. Heurer’s exhibit includes a series of photomontages combining contemporary landscapes with historical Dutch whaling paintings.
During phase two of the COVID-19 reopening process, all visitors to the VAC will be required to wear masks and have their temperatures scanned with no-touch thermometers. Masks will be available. Social-distancing guidelines will be in place as well, and floor arrows will direct visitors through the galleries and out separate exits. Barriers will be in place to separate VAC visitors and staff.
Capacity will be limited to 20 persons in the Runyan Gallery and two persons near the COVAS Gallery. Public spaces will be sanitized on a regular basis, and the VAC’s classrooms will not be available for rental during the start-up phase.
Although the VAC has been shuttered since March 21 because of COVID-19, Webb said they had successfully shifted to online exhibits and programming to keep the visual arts alive for the community. Webb said the Oregon Coast Online Art Show, online since May, and a series of online Sunday Oregon Coast Art Talks that began Aug. 15, have been on the menu, and they will continue indefinitely after the reopening.
And while Webb moved all exhibits online after the COVID closure, there was still plenty to look at — the Online Art Show includes the work of about 160 artists. Many of them are featured in the online Art Talks as well, and Webb encourages artists in the online show who have ideas for an arts talk to contact him.
“So many artists have been appreciative of having a place to show their art online during this time,” Webb said of the Online Art Show. “We’ve already sold about $7,000 in art from that show, and that amount was my personal goal. But we’re continuing to show the art, and work is still definitely for sale.” Art sales benefit both OCCA and the individual artist.
In the mean time, Webb said he has been talking with a variety of artists as he looks toward scheduling exhibits in 2021, and he is working on an exhibit catalogue for Newport artist Sandy Roumagoux’s fall 2019 retrospective at the VAC. He said it should be ready in about six weeks.
“We’ve made quite a few upgrades over the last few years, and in February, we resurfaced all of the gallery walls,” Webb noted. “It was a big job, and the walls look so much better and more professional.” Now he is looking at bringing back a ceramic studio on the second floor.
Other work in recent years included painting the building inside and out, and installing new blinds, floors and classroom furniture. Expenses were supported by the city of Newport and by the Oregon Community Foundation and Ford Family Foundation.
VAC programming for children has continued during the building’s closure as well, with art kits containing several projects distributed in conjunction with the Newport Public Library in August. Sara Siggelkow, arts learning coordinator at the VAC, said the kits were a cooperative effort with the library association, which purchased the supplies and distributed approximately 200 kits, while the VAC designed the craft projects, put the kits together to include everything but scissors and pencil, and made an instruction video.
Kits were also made available to the 21st Century After-School Program last spring, geared to homeless and at-risk youth primarily in grades 3-5. And work is under way on a new series of kits to be distributed this fall to three age groups — young children, older children and adults. Webb noted the VAC also helped families participate in the Nye Beach Banner Project.
David C. Carnevale, OCCA interim executive director, said, “Oregon Coast Council for the Arts is taking measured steps to reopen the VAC in a way that protects the safety and wellbeing of our staff, volunteers and guests. The visual arts add to the vibrancy and vitality of our community, and we are pleased to be able to make sure our residents and visitors are able to experience the amazing offerings at the VAC in person once again.”
Webb said the VAC has been in touch in recent weeks with its approximately 40 volunteers to determine who is able to return. “I’m excited about being back open to the public,” he said, explaining that by operating on a reduced schedule, “in a certain sense, it will be a phased reopening.”
Access to the VAC will be limited to the main entrance off the Nye Beach turnaround, 777 NW Beach Drive. Persons experiencing any symptoms associated with the COVID-19 virus are asked not to visit the facility.
For more information about the VAC or to participate in the online art show, call 541-265-6569, email [email protected] or visit coastarts.org.