A physical closing is not stopping FRANK Gallery from bringing art to its supporters.
The Chapel Hill art venue is now using a virtual gallery to bring its art to life and reach audiences through unconventional means.
FRANK, a nonprofit art gallery and collaboration between the Town of Chapel Hill and local artists, made the decision to close through the end of March at a minimum, according to a statement from FRANK released on March 16.
According to the statement, this decision was fueled by a desire to limit interpersonal contact and slow the spread of COVID-19.
Natalie Knox, gallery manager at FRANK, said the gallery was feeling the effect of social distancing even before the physical close went into effect.
She said one weekend in mid-March, there were only about 10 guests who came into the gallery.
“For people right now, everyone’s health and worries are in a different place, so coming in and seeing art isn’t really on their priority list,” Knox said.
The idea for a virtual gallery spurred from a desire to make the art more accessible and bring it to people in the comfort of their home.
Knox said she was able to get pictures of nearly every art piece in the gallery and in the current exhibit and post them on FRANK’s website.
“It’s not just a place for people to buy art,” Knox said. "We’re a nonprofit organization, and we want to be an educational place for people where they can feel comfortable to ask questions.”
The three featured artists for the March and April exhibit are Carroll Lassiter, John Parkinson and Nerys Levy. Lassiter and Levy are painters and members of FRANK, and Parkinson is a guest artist and furniture maker.
Levy said the virtual gallery is important because becoming a featured artist is a pivotal opportunity in many artists’ careers.
Levy is a landscape painter, and she paints much of her work outside as she travels. Some of the exhibit’s paintings were inspired by on-site experience in Jamaica and Italy, Levy said.
She said it took her months to bring the exhibit’s art pieces together. The virtual gallery helps artists to still be recognized for the time and money they have invested in the exhibit, she said.
“Not only is it a time when the artist’s work is seen, but it’s also when their work is sold and they make money,” Levy said. “So this impacts the artist greatly.”
In addition to the three featured artists, the virtual gallery shows a variety of other artists from jewelers to ceramicists and woodworkers.
“It’s just the tip of the iceberg and cannot fully replace what is in the gallery, but it shows you the breadth of the FRANK family and how broad our collection and inventory is,” Levy said.
Levy said the virtual gallery is a great way to enrich the lives of art supporters who may be frustrated at home.
“We can add joy, we can add color, we can add life, we can add excitement, just to renew things because if they can’t go out, we have to make sure they get it in,” Levy said.
Knox said many art venues have moved pieces into the virtual realm. Museums like The Louvre have brought its art online for public viewing. She said it is heartwarming to see the collective push to make art more accessible in this trying time.
“Even though we’re all kind of stuck at home, you can still see beautiful things online,” Knox said.
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