‘A Labor of Love’: Artists Unite to Honor Pittsboro Gallery’s Pandemic Journey

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Artists unite at Pittsboro Gallery of Arts, which recently celebrated its first anniversary

By Kelli Rainer and Anna-Rhesa Versola | Photography by John Michael Simpson

Artists Unite
Siler Bryan and Mercy Musya peruse the gallery’s available artwork.

Opening an art gallery amid a pandemic may be the highest form of hope. “We are hardy souls,” says Beth Bale, board of directors president for Pittsboro Gallery of Arts. “It was such a risk. … [We thought], let’s just do this thing. Now’s the time, [even in] these crazy, COVID times.”

The member-owned gallery supplants The Joyful Jewel; its retiring owner, Mariah Wheeler, encouraged Beth and other artists to take over the 2,000-square-foot space. The renovated gallery opened its doors last October but could not host a formal opening reception due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Artists Unite
Pittsboro Gallery of Arts Board President Beth Bale.

Sales at the gallery have been successful despite limitations, including ongoing construction at the traffic circle in downtown Pittsboro. Visitors can purchase pieces from 31 artists from Chatham and adjacent counties. Works on display include watercolor, oil and acrylic paintings; printmaking; photography; pen and ink drawing; pottery and ceramics; metalworks and jewelry; stained glass tile mosaics; and more.

Gallery artists pay a monthly membership in addition to working two 3.5-hour shifts per month. Throughout the past year, Beth says artists met virtually and held only one outdoor meeting to minimize contact. Some have not yet met and were looking forward to returning to in-person meetings this fall.

“We thought no more Zoom, no more outdoors, but we reversed all that,” Beth says. “It’s just crazy.”

Beth, who is a full-time occupational therapist at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center, says she is looking forward to the upcoming holiday season and anticipates strong business given there is something for everyone in the gallery.

“Even with the craziness, people are getting out,” Beth says, adding that shoppers are intentional about supporting local businesses. “Art is a great outlet. This is a labor of love. Art is part of the balance of our lives.”

The gallery is slated to host an in-person grand reopening in the spring, though the pandemic may change the plans yet again. 

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