With some art museums and galleries shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic, the gallery Art on 12 is keeping art alive and essential in its hometown of Wimberley. Located on scenic Ranch Road 12 near the banks of the Blanco River and Cypress Creek, Art on 12 showcases paintings, watercolors, pastels, photography, sculpture, pottery, and jewelry by 50 local, regional, and national artists. Open since 2014, Art on 12 has become a destination gallery for art lovers who flock to this Hill Country artist community.
We visited with Jan Fitzhugh—a jewelry designer, metal artist, and managing partner and co-owner of Art on 12—to find out how she keeps the lights on and doors open for visitors during these unusually difficult times.
How are you managing the gallery during the pandemic?
We are open Friday through Sunday right now. Before COVID-19, we were open seven days a week. We’ll get back to that schedule. Right now I’m playing it super safe. I sanitize everything, and we require customers to wear masks. It’s such a large gallery [4,300 square feet with 10 rooms] that social distancing isn’t a problem. I can have 20 people in the gallery, and everybody is completely apart.
I thought this pandemic could be the end of us, but it hasn’t been that way at all. We’re selling art now in many different ways. I’ve sold paintings to customers who’ve seen our work on Facebook and Instagram and through our weekly email newsletter. Sales keep trickling in, and thankfully we’re keeping afloat.
Why does Wimberley attract so many artists?
I think it’s the beauty and scenery and just the feel of Wimberley. Every artist wants to live here and enjoy the essence of Wimberley. It’s a warm, open, and welcoming town. Artists come here for the weekend, and they don’t want to leave. They want to be surrounded by other artists.
When I moved here six years ago, I jumped into the art world and didn’t realize how all-consuming art is in Wimberley. It’s difficult to meet someone here who is not an artist. The Wimberley art scene is like one big happy family. There’s no competition among the galleries. We’re friends, and we refer customers back and forth all the time.
How do you select artists and find new talent?
When we opened gallery six years ago, we wanted artists in the local area to have a place to show their work. I look for artists who are completely different from everyone else already exhibiting here. When you come in and look around, you’ll see that every single artist is very unique.
In the back of the gallery, we have a People’s Choice vote for artists who aren’t showing their work anywhere else. It gives me an opportunity to meet new artists and see their work, and it gives them an opportunity to see how their work is received by the public.
How are local artists weathering the pandemic?
We’ve all been financially impacted. Some artists have hunkered down and are creating all kinds of new work while others have walked away from their art during this time because they feel depressed and can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s affected everyone differently.
How have your customers reacted?
People during this time have needed to buy art as an outlet. They want something new on the walls at home they’re looking at seven days a week. I think this has inspired some sales. People need retail therapy. They want to spend some money and cheer themselves up.
What does art bring to our lives during this unprecedented time?
Art brings happiness into our lives. Every work of art is an escape. If you focus on something beautiful even for 60 seconds while standing in front of a painting, it takes you to a different place. I can get lost in a painting. I don’t want to think about having to wear a mask or not being able to meet my friends for a glass of wine at a favorite restaurant. I want to transport myself to someplace pretty, even for a few minutes.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect cities and towns across the state, Texas Highways asked our writers to share stories of adversity, recovery and strength in Texas’ small business community. We also checked in with businesses we’ve covered in the past and invited members of Texas travel associations to give us an update on how they’re doing and how you can support them. Click here to explore our map of nearly 500 small businesses.