Michael Kaiser hangs “View,” his exhibition opening at the Sherrie Gallery during the Virtual Gallery Hop May 2. Credit: Courtesy of Sherrie Hawk

After more than 35 years of art, music and food, not even a global pandemic can stop the Gallery Hop.

On the first Saturday of every month at 4 p.m., local art galleries, restaurants and other small businesses normally open their storefronts for visitors to celebrate the Short North Arts District’s Gallery Hop. However, for the second month in a row, the Gallery Hop has gone virtual to maintain the safety of Columbus residents during the COVID-19 crisis.

“It is always one of the community’s favorite nights to go out and grab something to eat at one of our local restaurants. And with the impact of COVID-19, we have refused to cancel something that is such an embedded tradition in our community, and have instead taken it virtual,” Betsy Pandora, executive director of the Short North Alliance, said.

The Short North hosted its first Virtual Gallery Hop April 4, displaying the work of visual and performing artists on Instagram through the platform’s story feature. It garnered an unusually high turnout — 500 percent higher than attendance at recent in-person events — Pandora said. Saturday, it plans to follow the same approach.

The online Gallery Hop will kick off with a full hour devoted to visual arts content from Short North galleries, Pandora said. That could be anything from a sneak peak of new works to a full virtual exhibition, in addition to interviews with artists.

The remainder of the gallery hop experience will combine visual and performing arts with other creative content. Some featured events this month will include a virtual cooking class from Quinci Emporium, a Short North cookware and food boutique, and a virtual concert series by menswear shop Pursuit, both of which can be accessed through the Short North’s Instagram. Local galleries will also showcase artists on the Short North’s Instagram page.

Sherrie Hawk, owner of the Sherrie Gallery, has been part of the Gallery Hop for 32 years. Hawk has worked in tandem with the Gallery Hop to continue to display the work of artists such as Michael Kaiser, whose exhibition will open this Saturday.

“This time, we would’ve had an opening for an artist in the May Gallery Hop, which is kind of heartbreaking because they’ve worked for a year on their show, so I’m really grateful for the virtual gallery. It gives a platform,” Hawk said.

Despite its success, Pandora said it was difficult to figure out the logistics of taking the April Gallery Hop online.

“I think the stay-at-home orders came out two weeks before Gallery Hop was due to occur, and so we literally had less than a week to really pull our plan together and try and figure out how we could mount what is an event that typically spans a mile and a half along High Street, all on Instagram,” Pandora said.

Some of the accommodations included changing the time of the event from its usual 4 p.m. start to 2 p.m. to accommodate larger online traffic during the daytime. Pandora said the Short North is continuing to make alterations to the event to further accommodate visitors’ interests, including incorporating more video content.

Although the process of bringing the gallery hop to online visitors has presented unique challenges, Hawk expressed gratitude for the success of this past month’s Virtual Gallery Hop and said she looks forward to this month.

“I really wanna give people what they want, you know? So my goal in these past months has been to bring beauty and joy through art. So I feel like the Virtual Gallery Hop is perfect for that,” Hawk said. “And we’re not doing sales, exactly. I just want people to feel good and have something different coming across their screen.”

The May Virtual Gallery Hop will begin Saturday at 2 p.m. and can be accessed through the Short North Arts District’s Instagram page.