Virtual world: Galena Center for Arts goes online for exhibits, programs

“Lone Tree,” watercolor, by Catherine Bastin. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

“Glow,” needle felted wool, by Larissa Distler. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

“Looking Closely at a Snowy Burr Oak,” photograph, by Diane Banas. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

GALENA, Ill. — COVID-19 might have put the kibosh on many artistic endeavors in the tri-states, but Galena Center for the Arts isn’t letting the pandemic stop it from continuing to showcase area artists.

“Trees … Branching Out,” an exhibit that originally was scheduled to open at the center this summer, has found a home online as a virtual exhibit book.

“This was an exhibit we were planning on,” said gallery manager Patricia Lehnhardt. “Of course, we closed in March, and it didn’t happen.”

The idea for the virtual exhibit came from a Florida artist Lehnhardt has followed for some time.

“I’m a fiber artist, and this was a fellow artist whose exhibit was also shut down,” she said. “The museum had done this catalog in a flip book form on its website. We thought it would be something unique, and we hadn’t done it before.”

Switching gears to start creating the virtual exhibit, Lehnhardt reached out to the center’s contact list of approximately 150 artists.

“We had about 20 who responded who are in the book online,” she said. “All of the art came by email, and I worked right from home.”

In addition to the pieces displayed in the exhibition book online, Lehnhardt said another aspect of the planned exhibit was a leaf project. The artists were given handmade paper leaves to use as they wanted to in their artwork.

Lehnhardt and Galena artist Maureen Bardusk created the leaves in February using recycled paper and plant material.

“We were going to have a branch with those leaves hanging off of it in one of the galleries,” she said. “We were able to hand them out to about 50 artists before we closed.”

Once completed, artists photographed their creations and emailed them to Lehnhardt. Those leaves are being featured on the center’s Facebook page. Lehnhardt said the leaves will be switched out every few days through mid-August.

“Many of the pieces are for sale,” she said. “And the exhibit will be online forever in the archives.”

Executive Director Carole Sullivan said the center is staying closed for awhile.

“The Galena Center for the Arts is pivoting to virtual art for the time being,” she said. “We have always been very good at bringing people together for art openings, music and theatrical performances, but it seems that won’t be safe for a while yet.”

The center’s Songwriter’s Showcase, a monthly staple in the past, has morphed into a YouTube channel where new videos are posted every Thursday. Visitors will find videos from musicians Lenny Wayne, LA Suess, Andy Houy and Robyn Davis and Ted Williams on the channel. Future videos will feature Medicial Purposes, Will Mueller and Kara Gordon, with more to come.

In the coming months, the center also will post videos highlighting several programs:

Tuesday, July 21: Radio WGCA, On the Air!

Thursday, July 23: Classical Musicians: What Makes Them Tick?

Tuesday, July 28: Broad Ideas.

Thursday, July 30: Artist Studio Tours.

Tuesday, Aug. 4: Inside a Table Reading.

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