YORK’S independent art galleries are ready to reopen for business as soon as Government guidelines allow, asserts According To McGee director Greg McGee.
“The most accurate litmus test of a city’s cultural health is the amount and state of its indies,” says Greg, “And going by that gauge, the city is culturally doing fine, despite the most challenging year in living memory.”
Culture being consigned to quarantine for the majority of 2020 means creative outlets have been forced back to the drawing board. “But now they await the moment when they can resume doing what they do best: celebrating unique, idiosyncratic items,” says Greg.
Art Of Protest gallery director Craig Humble concurs: “There are over a dozen of us, and, as varied as we are, we add a crucial element to the city-centre experience. I’m sure I speak for the rest of my contemporaries when I can confidently say we are doubly committed to bringing top-quality art to the browsing and buying public.”
Although the doors are closed at his gallery, newly relocated to Walmgate, Craig has not stopped working. “All the galleries in York are available now for enquiries and website sales. We are all of us often working in the galleries or on our computers, closely monitoring incoming questions and requests. Click and Collect pertains to independent galleries too.”
At present filling his gallery walls with Richard Barnes’s new works of York and the North York Moors, Greg wants to assure collectors and buyers that the art and crafts available for purchase will make for ideal gifts and stocking fillers.
“We can never rival the mainstream behemoths that have continued to churn through sale and demand, even in the middle of lockdown,” he says. “But there’s an undeniable magic in visiting indie galleries.
“The customer knows that the financial transaction will benefit the city directly, and the individuality of the items purchased makes for more memorable gifts.”
Craig believes the enjoyment of mooching on the streets of York and experiencing independent galleries, either coming across them by chance or intentionally making a visit, is a key part of the value of galleries.
“No-one wants a city centre that has been given over solely to the most mainstream outlets,” he argues. “In that sense, Indie York, who have helped us on social media and on their increasingly important maps, have brought awareness to this issue for years.”
Sara Amil-Smith, of Indie York, says: “York has a vibrant and diverse mix of long established, independently owned galleries, offering traditional and contemporary work. These galleries often collaborate and have good relationships with local makers and artists.
“When you support a local gallery, you are supporting a wider community of local artists and makers, which is particularly important during these challenging times.”
Greg points to the groundswell of support found for the galleries on social media and in the houses of the patrons who support them. “The list is growing: Art Of Protest; Blossom Street Gallery; Blue Tree Gallery; Braithwaite Gallery; Corner Gallery; The Crescent community venue; Gillygate Framing; Holgate Gallery; Janette Ray Booksellers; Kentmere House Gallery; Lotte Inch Gallery; Pyramid Gallery; The Hilt, and According To McGee,” he says.
“If we can ask people who love art and are passionate about starting or augmenting a collection, please wait until the doors of these galleries open again in December or take advantage of the online experience and make queries or make purchases.”
Greg continues: “Every gallery director I know is keeping on top of the online requests and sales that are coming in. Culture is just as open to the click-and-collect experience as anything else.
“There’s something for everyone; you will genuinely be helping to maintain the local cultural economy, and York will be one more step away from subscribing to the anonymity that has bled other cities dry. The best place to start is to grab an Indie York map. See you on the trail!”