With stops and starts, A Guilded Gallery in Stanwood is finally reopening Wednesday with current health precautions. “New Beginnings,” is a look at what artists have been up to while safely quarantined in their studios.

A Guilded Gallery has a new look and layout. There's no gala opening, but the show will keep in compliance with current COVID-19 restrictions: now five people at a time, masks and social distancing, no pets or food. That could change.

"Health comes first," artist volunteer Erin Bradshaw said.

New Beginnings features 50 original works from 29 regional artists plus all new art from 15 featured artists. Art includes paintings, sculptures, glass, jewelry, wood ceramics and photography.

Normally this time of year, artists would be out and about, showing and socializing at summer festivals and gallery shows. Many rely on these events for a major part of their livelihood.

But during the spring’s uncertainty, events canceled and galleries closed, like A Guilded Gallery, waiting and wondering when they could reopen.

“We just gave up and pushed it out to July. I think that’s the general feeling with businesses in town,” said Val Paul Taylor, guild president.

When businesses started to open, guild members set a tentative date for the gallery to open with a show featuring regional artists and guild members, finally emerging from studios with new work.

“For artists, we crave studio time. As a result, we’re happy campers. We called each other quite a bit and produced a lot of art,” Taylor said.

At first artists were working on all those projects they wanted to, glad to be rid of distractions, he said.

“Until the end of April. Then all of a sudden, people have been saying they’ve been sitting around and staring into space. They need people,” Taylor said. “They need shows and galleries and deadlines, or they’re going to waste time.”

They got a second wind and got busy again.

“Our theme is new beginnings. It’s happy joyful, positive, forward thinking. A lot of people have found their families, faith, whatever sustains them again. The art will surprise people. I think it will be uplifting: incredibly bright colors, optimistic, hopeful,” Taylor said.

Art reflects our shared experience. During World War II as fascism was rampant, some art had dark themes, like Picasso’s Guernica.

“Protest art came from two camps: one is burn the place down, dark, cynical. And two, we can get through this together — let’s make a better world,” Taylor said.

The guild reached out to artists all over the area to draw them into this diverse show. There’s a drive to make the Stanwood-Camano area a regional destination for art. The guild wants to be part of that and is opening up the gallery for a wide assortment of artists beyond the membership.

Stanwood glass artist Mark Ellinger is onboard and looking forward to the show.

“The gallery is taking a new turn and expanding beyond members. It’s a way of trying to move the guild in another direction to make more money so it can keep going. It’s new for the gallery and the guild to do something like that. They felt they needed to expand, open possibilities and perhaps get new members,” he said.

Ellinger bunkered down during the "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order. He feels fortunate that his studio is in his home, but he’s felt the effects of shutting down public venues. He received a payroll loan, which helps.

“I lost a third of my income for the year, from not just having any shows,” Ellinger said. “Sorticulture, the Artist Studio Tour, Duval Garden Show ... all those got canceled, and it kind of hurt. I’ve had to cut back on my blowing time, things have slowed down.”

While production has slowed because of fewer outlets, he’s come up with new lines like Cremation Creation, which uses cremated ashes in custom memorial art.

His glass blowing team has also been making glass floats to commemorate today’s virus challenges, and gives 10% of the proceeds to the Stanwood Camano Food Bank. Ellinger uses a custom-made stamp to emboss a heart and “COVID-19” into glass balls when they’re hot. Turns out, they’re a hot item on Facebook.

“They’ve taken off like crazy. They keep selling out,” Ellinger said. “It’s a year to remember, but you want to forget it.”

Taylor has also turned to online sales for other works, as well.

 “I’ve sold more paintings than I have in the gallery. Collectors are buying online; they don’t want to come into the gallery,” he said.

Tasha Smith, a Camano collage artist, was also affected by events canceling, working in her home studio more, but also with three kids at home.

“I'm choosing to focus on the positive, and I am putting a great deal more effort into showcasing my work on social media,” she said.

She's learning to balance both work and family at home.

“A lot of us have really enjoyed this time. It’s sad in a kind of a macabre way that it might end. But I’m looking forward to opening the gallery,” Taylor said.

New Beginnings runs 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st Street NW, Stanwood.

Contact reporter Peggy Wendel at pwendel@scnews.com or 360-416-2189.

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