Going digital or giving up altogether are the choices facing art galleries and small businesses in Taos, and the world for that matter, while we all wait out the lockdowns caused by the pandemic of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Basically, all galleries are closed to visitors, but many get a couple of sales per week from existing clients, so they are working social media, especially Instagram, and handling phone orders. The rock stars of online marketing in Taos, however, are Jones Walker of Taos, 127 Bent Street.
Tony Walker said he and partner/artist Max Jones are actually selling something through their online store every day.
"We're doing tons of social media," Walker said. "We have 5,000 followers on FaceBook and Instagram and I do at least three posts a day. It takes a lot of time, but it makes people feel like they're here and connected."
Since the lockdown, they took photos of everything in the gallery and are busy putting new work online every day.
"Max said we need an online store through our website, so we got right on it," Walker said, adding emphatically, "You have two choices - sit at home and whine about the lockdown or get off your [butt] and do it!" Call (575) 758-7965 or see joneswalkeroftaos.com.
Social media, online stores
Máye Torres' Studio 107-B, on North Taos Plaza, has ramped up her website and issued a call for artists' work in response to COVID-19. She's inviting 20 to 30 artists in France, Ethiopia and California to invite another 10 or 20 artists to share work.
"I'm getting images, poems, short films and songs - whatever the artists have created - and putting it online, a digital exhibit," Torres said by phone last week. Countless artists can be shown in virtual exhibits unlimited by four walls. But it's scary, too, she says. "We're so at the mercy of the unknown. But it does give us time to work - isolation is not foreign to us artists." Call (575) 779-7832 or see Facebook and studio107b.com.
Keeping it personal
Michael McCormick Gallery, 106 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, is operating, but owner McCormick says says clients want to talk to a human being when it comes to buying fine art. So besides his comprehensive website and already active social media, he will not create an online store, and continues to take calls in person. Call (575) 758-1372 or see mccormickgallery.com.
Taos Gallery Association President Rob Nightingale of Wilder Nightingale Fine Art, 119 Kit Carson Road, said he has had a few sales. "People will see an image on Instagram and go to the website. One couple found three pieces they liked." But he's balking at setting up on online store for now. Call (575) 758-3255 or see wnightingale.com.
TGA Director David Mapes, gallerist of David Anthony Fine Art, 132 Kit Carson Road, said galleries would be really smart to set up online stores that work on their websites, like Jones Walker of Taos did. Mapes asks that galleries with online stores contact him and he'll list them online. Call (575) 770-5733 or see davidanthonyfineart.com.
Jeweler/gallerist Moriah Stanton of MoMo Taos, 133 Bent Street, said lockdown is actually better, because her two-year-old's day care also closed, allowing her to be with her instead of working the gallery. She is considering virtual tours of her artists' paintings, jewelry and pottery.
"I'm also profiling my artists more in depth online," Stanton said by phone. "I'm utilizing mostly Instagram and I'm at my clients' disposal more often. I've done videos of wearing jewelry and what's in the gallery. I have faith we can come out of this OK and successfully weather this storm." Call (505) 690-7871 or see momotaos.com.
No Taos galleries at press time are virus victims. Only two galleries won't reopen - but not because of the virus.
Copper Moon Gallery owner Diana Miller said last summer she would be retiring in 2020. One of the last events she was doing was cancelled, the Kit Carson Road Spring Equinox celebration for March 24, 2020. Copper Moon, at 105 Kit Carson Road, closed with state lockdowns and won't reopen.
Also closed now is Palaski Fine Art, formerly at 129 Kit Carson Road, the contemporary art cooperative, which opened July 2019. Owner Cece Palaski said the overall response last summer was poor, so she closed March 30 and says she will not reopen.
Georgia Gersh closed Magpie gallery, in the Overland Ranch complex in El Prado, on March 13, two days after Gov. Lujan Grisham's March 11 announcement that nonessential businesses had to close until the pandemic ended.
"I miss the beautiful space," Gersh said in a Facebook post and again by phone. "I have been there nearly every day for almost six years now. I miss my beautiful customers, their appreciation and developing friendships. I miss my artists. For now I am not doing online marketing or sales. This may change in the coming months, but presently I feel this is a time to pause from putting energy out and turn inward. The art to come out of this period will be remarkable. I'll be eager to reopen Magpie with gusto when the time is right." Call (781) 248-0166 or see magpietaos.com.
'We'll do what we need to'
"We're still here, we're gonna be here, come and look at what we've got," Taos Blue owner Sue Westbrook said in a phone interview last week. She'll reopen her 30-year-old Taos Blue gallery, 101 Bent Street, once businesses are allowed to, but like she does every year, she'll paper her windows, clean the gallery ferociously and set out new fine handcrafts in the windows.
Westbrook asked her artists to create inspirational statements to accompany new work going up in the windows.
She's not too crazy about an online store, but said "if it's a matter of survival we'd have to be open to that, although I'm not thrilled at the idea of being on a computer all the time - we'll do what we need to." Call (575) 779-4338 or visit taosblue.com.
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