Christina Foard, a full time artist and recent Masters of Fine Arts graduate from the University of Georgia, presents Imagination Squared: Pathways to Resilience, a project Foard has been pursuing since 2017 involving hundreds of members of the Athens community, on Sept. 17, 2020 at the Lyndon House Arts Center in Athens, Georgia. Foard received the Athens Area Arts Council’s quarterly grant to conduct this project. Foard created over 1,000 squares representing one person’s or a group of people’s response to a question Foard posed about what resilience looks like. (Photo/Caroline Head, chead@randb.com)

In the early stages of the pandemic, many art galleries expanded their online presence through Art at Home projects, livestreams and virtual galleries. But as businesses began to reopen, Lyndon House Arts Center and Tiny ATH gallery began to allow in-person visitors to peruse their shows.

The Lyndon House Arts Center officially announced its temporary closure on March 17, just days after program supervisor Didi Dunphy canceled all spring classes and events at the center.

Dunphy considers the arts center lucky because before mandated closures, Lyndon House had been able to host three major gatherings, including its 45th juried show, which she said had roughly 600-700 people in attendance.

After closures, Lyndon House moved the exhibition online where it was viewed “quite robustly,” Dunphy said. They also did a social media rollout where they featured an artist, their work and their story every day for 100 days, she said. Then, when the center reopened, people were able to view the exhibition again in person with timed entry tickets at limited capacity.

Although there are more people in town than over the summer and restrictions have eased a little bit, Dunphy said attendance has still been limited. However, it’s been increasing as time goes on.

“When we opened it was still very tender,” Dunphy said about activity around town. “It was very quiet, a little ghost town, and people were still very nervous about being out.”

Tiny ATH Gallery has also seen a decline in visitors, said Camille Hayes, founder of Tiny ATH. When an exhibition opens, the gallery usually sees 120-150 visitors, but pandemic-style openings bring in between 30-50 people. Hayes said only four people are allowed in the gallery at one time, and those waiting to visit the exhibition can wait in a socially distanced line in the parking lot.

“I think that everyone kind of freaked out with the numbers of COVID[-19] cases rising so quickly with students being back,” Hayes said. “So I think that a lot of people just kind of decided they would be safer if they stopped going out and about.”

Despite the decline in gallery visitors, the arts center saw an increase in open studio membership, Dunphy said. Lyndon House provides studios professionally equipped for different types of art projects, ranging from ceramics to printmaking.

Since the studios can’t be reopened for classes, the center has opened them instead for individual artists. Dunphy was happy to see people making art in the studios again.

Tiny ATH and Lyndon House have been able to connect with their visitors through social media and online content. Hayes said she started to host artist talks on Instagram Live for each exhibition, which allows viewers to connect with the artist and ask questions. She plans to continue the series after things are back to “normal.”

“Having the community be able to engage with the artist that has an exhibition up adds value to the exhibition, and artists want to speak about their work,” Hayes said.