Michael Kaiser hangs a photo

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

Although many doors are still closed, the local art scene in Columbus has found ways to flourish online.

In the midst of a pandemic, Columbus art galleries have partnered with the Short North Arts District to continue engaging the public through virtual gallery hops, art trails and social media initiatives. 

Over the past 35 years, local art galleries and other small businesses have welcomed visitors to celebrate the Short North Arts District’s Gallery Hop on the first Saturday of the month at 4 p.m. However, to maintain safety during COVID-19, the gallery hop has gone virtual.

The online gallery hop uses Instagram’s story feature to showcase the work of visual and performing artists with anything from a sneak peak of new works to a full virtual exhibition, in addition to interviews with artists. In its April 4 debut, the virtual gallery hop garnered an unusually high turnout — 500 percent higher than attendance at recent in-person events — Betsy Pandora, executive director of the Short North Alliance, said.

“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,” Sherry Hawk, owner of the Sherry Gallery, said. “And we’re not doing sales, exactly. I just want people to feel good and have something different coming across their screen.” 

The public can also interact with art via the Short North’s Arts District Trail hosted by Experience Columbus. It’s a free, interactive experience in which visitors follow an art trail throughout the Short North. It features a self-guided tour list of all the local galleries, in addition to art works located outdoors for public viewing.

The interactive website experience is updated in accordance with the gallery’s Google Places page, so it recommends calling before visiting due to frequently changing hours and circumstances in light of the pandemic, according to the Short North Arts District Trail helpline. To access the Short North Arts District Trail, visitors can visit Experience Columbus’ Art Trail District page, where they can register for a tour.

In another initiative to keep art thriving, the Short North Arts District took to social media again to reach audiences. The Short North Alliance’s most recent exhibit, “One World,” made in collaboration with 10 partner galleries and art institutions, invites audiences to celebrate and collect art in person or from home through the Short North Arts District’s Instagram and Facebook. 

The exhibit debuted July 19 and will continue to be on display for one year. It is the seventh rendition of the Short North Mural Series, which showcases the diversity of global artists and their experiences, according to the Short North Arts District website.  

Audiences can view the work in person, but due to the pandemic, some galleries are still closed, creating the opportunity for pieces to be viewed and sold via social media. The Short North Arts District’s Instagram page is featuring “One World” exhibit pieces in its stories categorized by galleries. If a viewer sees something they like, they can follow the link shared with the art piece to learn more or purchase the piece. 

According to the Short North Arts District Instagram, it plans on keeping the virtual experience for all gallery hops going forward. Guidance from the city and safety measures will determine if an in-person experience can be offered. As of now, they are planning on offering both a virtual and in-person experience in August.