Art galleries around the nation are being forced to close their doors in epidemic numbers.
After 11 years in Hillsdale County, Jonesville’s Gallery 49 closed on March 30.
Rhonda Foster, president of Gallery 49 Artists’ Co-op, said a lack of funding and artists forced them to close their physical location.
“We always had just barely enough to by,” Foster said, “But never enough to do anything extra.”
The co-op recently became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, but they didn’t have enough time to get a grant before funds ran out. Foster said that they are still working to get a grant, but the type of “operational funding” grant they need is very difficult to come by because there are so few of them, and nothing will be available until 2020.
In addition to struggling funds, Foster also noted that this was one of the worst Christmas seasons they’d experienced.
“Galleries across the country, no matter the size of the city, are struggling,” Foster said.
Foster said that although their doors are closing, they still plan on sticking together as a co-op of artists. Kristie Tellier, vice president of the Gallery 49 Artists’ Co-op, said they are considering the possibility of becoming event-based, so instead of having a storefront, they would have art shows and events throughout the year. The co-op is made up of a large array of artists, but Foster said that as sales went down, artists couldn’t afford to keep their work in the gallery anymore.
“We were always kept together because everyone chipped in to help,” Foster said. “But the reality is that we never had enough money to advertise and bring people in.”
The gallery said on their Facebook page that they are looking for local businesses and organizations to display their members’ art.
“For us, it’s always been about the art and our community.”
The gallery will have a closing sale on April 27 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., where the gallery will be selling their store displays. The money will help cover some of their expenses; although they have locked the doors, the gallery still has some bills to pay. The co-op has also set up a gofundme page with a goal of raising $10,000.
Foster said that she is appreciative of the support they have received from the community, but wished it had come before they closed.
“I’m saddened that we got all of this attention after we closed, when we’ve struggled for so long,” Foster said. “I felt special knowing that we lasted for over 10 years because no one else has done what we have in this county.”
The co-op said on Facebook that Gallery 49 is not the retail space, but a co-operative organization of artists who support each other and the arts within their community.
“None of us feel like we failed, we kept it going, and we feel really good about that,” Tellier said. “We aren’t ready to put our art tools away.”