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The closed Westerly Artist Cooperative in the Amtrak Station on Railroad Street on Monday, March 23, 2020. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun

WESTERLY — Arts organizations locally and around the globe continue to make decisions and announcements in light of the coronavirus epidemic and its requisite social distancing.

In Westerly, members of the board of directors of the Artists' Cooperative Gallery of Westerly, in their first ever "teleconference," voted to close the downtown gallery until at least June and postpone their regional exhibit until October.

"We made some very big decisions yesterday," said Board President Arlene Piaquadio in a telephone interview Tuesday morning as she praised social media and spoke about the rapidly changing landscape in the arts world.

"We are following the governor's directive," said Piaquadio, who praised Gov. Gina Raimondo's leadership. "And we are staying safe and hopeful."

All classes and events have been canceled, she added, and decisions about rescheduling will be re-evaluated "when the time is right."

Updates and announcements will be posted on the gallery's website and Facebook page, she said.

"I stay in touch with members and share what I can," she said, "and we are always grateful when people reach out to us."

"It's hard to believe that just a week ago we decided to [temporarily] close the gallery," added Piaquadio. "So much has happened since."

In the last week alone, galleries and museums from Providence to New London and from Boston to New York have announced closures, postponements and cancellations.

Both the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York — two of the country's oldest art museums — have both shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Mystic Seaport Museum closed to the public on March 13, and the RISDI museum will be closed until further notice, as will New London's Custom House Maritime Museum.   

The Artists' Cooperative Gallery of Westerly, a non-profit organization with roughly 50 members run by volunteers and artists who see to the management and operations, is located in the former Amtrak railway station on Railroad Avenue. For the past 28 years, members have made sure a new show opens each month, typically featuring the work of two artist members and kicking off with a gala wine reception on Friday evenings.

"We just want to do what's right," added Piaquadio, an abstract painter who works with encaustics. "And we want to stay connected."

"The plan right now is to re-open in June," she added. "We are hoping at least. Having a plan is important, and having hope is too."

Piaquadio said she is encouraging art-lovers to explore the work of gallery members on the cooperative's website and to visit their individual Facebook pages.

Piaquadio said board members will post news and updates on the gallery website and Facebook page and members will continue to stay as connected as possible through social media.

A post on the gallery website invites visitors to "take a break from the news for a bit and from the comfort of your home peruse the wonderful artwork" and to visit the artist members' pages to "view some more of the finest artwork in the area."

"Browse through some fresh, inspiring new original artworks by our many talented, award winning member artists," the post continues.

"At least we are all in this together, added Piaquadio, "and we know we'll be back, and I believe we'll all come through this and we'll be stronger."

The Artists' Cooperative Gallery of Westerly was founded in 1992 by artists Bruce Goodsell, Sandi Gold and Ginger Mitchell. Originally located in the Brown Building on High Street, the artist-owned and -operated gallery has moved locations a number of times, and has grown significantly through the years. Prior to moving to the train station, the gallery was located in the former Montgomery Ward building on Canal Street.

"It's such a strange situation," said Piaquadio. "I just feel so terrible for all the businesses ... it's challenging ... and the news can be very draining and consuming. It's very easy to fall apart."

"But I really believe in staying connected and staying safe and staying hopeful," she said. "We are all so grateful. Westerly is such an amazing community and we do feel very connected."

For a glimpse of the artwork offered by gallery members, visit the gallery at westerlyarts.com.

nbfusaro@thewesterlysun.com

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