Local art galleries slowly reopen as COVID-19 restrictions ease

Art galleries are slowly reopening in Waterloo Region following the easing of public health restrictions, and curators and organizers are happy to be back.

“This is our first reopening in 2022,” said Woodstock Art Gallery curator Mary Reid. “Which we are very excited about.”

The Woodstock Art Gallery, like several institutions in the region, did not reopen when the province authorized it on January 31.

Reid explained that repairs to the roof also kept the doors closed and changing exposure takes time.

“That’s when we normally go dark for a few weeks and change all our exposures,” Reid said. “So we felt there was really no reason for people to come at the end of January only to see that half the gallery was closed.”

Art lovers will be treated to three new exhibitions when the gallery reopens on February 19, including one on the concept of mindfulness.

Reid explained that part of the intent is to help visitors reduce stress.

Meanwhile in Kitchener, accommodating exhibits also saw the Homer Watson Home & Gallery push back its reopening by four days until February 4.

“When we were allowed to reopen, that was basically the end of this exhibition,” explained Tabatha Watson, director and curator. “We didn’t think it was worth pausing that for a day or two, so we took that time to prepare for the next one.”

Aligning exhibits during the pandemic has been the most difficult aspect of opening and closing, Watson said.

It’s a challenge the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery has also faced.

“There’s a bit of negotiation to try to make sure we can keep exhibits available as much as possible when we’re reduced by various lockdowns,” said Stephanie Vegh of the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery.

Minto Schneider of Explore Waterloo Region called the situation a perfect storm, saying these sites need more time to prepare for reopening.

“Public health measures have been so restrictive that people are still worried and feel it’s not safe to go outside,” she said.

Meanwhile, galleries say they hope they can stay open and are cautiously optimistic as they welcome patrons back to explore and experience art.

Mildred D. Field