Keeli Crewe, co-owner of Area 61 gallery speaks out on how COVID-19 has affected the gallery
One of the greatest parts about living in such an art-centric city as Chattanooga is the presence of homes for local artwork. Along with the many great nonprofits in town that sponsor and provide spaces for local artwork, there are several fantastic galleries, including Area 61.
Keeli Crewe is the co-owner and gallery director at Area 61 and has been for over a decade now. Area 61 is one of the more unique galleries in the Chattanooga area, as it only displays and sells artwork created by local artists. More than a dozen of the areas best creators have set up shop there and are connecting to the community through events hosted at the gallery.
Area 61 was originally located on the Southside, but in 2017 it was closed until a new location could be found. After two years of hard work, the new location opened in December of 2019, right next to the Tivoli.
“I’m certainly thrilled with the new location and the quality, originality and creative works we get to represent by artists from Chattanooga and our immediate surrounding area,” Keeli said.
With the gallery having re-opened so recently though, there are fears. Keeli says that the new location has made connecting to the community far easier and that the first few months showed great promise. Since the pandemic began though, traffic to the gallery slowed dramatically. This has caused some alarm for the gallery, as it is unable to apply for small business loans and instead relies on customers buying artwork to stay open.
Wanting to do their part in slowing the spread of COVID-19, Area 61 has decided to temporarily close during the pandemic.
“I know that as long as businesses are open, people will come out,” Keeli said. “So the decision to temporarily close is the right one. Our intention is to make sure that all people in our community and communities everywhere are well.”
Being closed doesn’t mean that the gallery is no longer finding ways to stay active and engage the community though.
While not being able to sell artwork out the door isn’t ideal, Area 61 is still selling the artwork of the artists it hosts online. Through its website and social media, it is continuing to provide for those it features.
On Instagram, the gallery has begun a series of videos showcasing the home studios of its artists. This has been giving local art fans a behind-the-scenes look at how some of their favorite artists are creating during the pandemic.
“I’m so looking forward to reopening when it is best for the community, our neighbors, and our visitors to do so. My hope is that more lives are not lost among those that have been supporting us in healthcare and basic needs while we shelter in place; and that their dedication and welfare are considered when determining the time to cycle back up.”