While galleries in Fredericksburg turned to social media for sales, classes and camaraderie during the shutdown, social media just can’t replace visiting with friends, seeing colleagues and greeting customers.

D.D. Lecky, the owner of LibertyTown Arts Workshop, which recently opened with precautions in place, said customers have been happy to visit while complying with the rules set by the state.

Visitors will need to wear masks and practice social distancing while they’re in the gallery, which is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

“Everyone’s been so nice and respectful,” Lecky said. “We require masks because the state requires us, too, but we also think it’s a good idea.”

Lecky said from what she’s seen, people have missed the gallery and have stopped in to see the drawings, paintings, jewelry, photography, glass works, fiber, oils, pastels and watercolors.

“We’ve had people come in and just walk through the space just to look at art again because they’ve been staring at their own four walls for months, so there’s a lot of people just walking through staring at pretty things,” Lecky said

Social distancing at the 30,000-square-foot building, which houses works from roughly 60 artists with 27 in-house studios, hasn’t been a problem, Lecky said.

“We’ve had up to 20 to 30 people in the space so far and social distancing hasn’t been hard at all,” Lecky said.

Jeannie Ellis, the owner of Darbytown Art Studio, where people are likely as not to meet artists and see them at work during a visit, said artists have been as anxious to get back to work as customers have been to get back inside the studio.

“People are happy. We’ve got four or five artists in here most days,” Ellis said.

The woodworkers, oil painters, watercolorists, collage artists, photographers, sculptors and potters at Darbytown stayed busy through quarantine and have work piled up ready to show, Ellis said.

“All of our artists are just tickled to death that we’re back open,” said Ellis, who also owns Canal Quarter Arts, where another set of artists work and display their creations.

Ellis said her customers are also ready to get back into the galleries and she’ll try to make the galleries as accessible as possible.

“I guess people are looking forward to getting back to a normal, but we’ll never go back to a normal, so I’m trying to create a new normal here,” Ellis said. “People are ready to get on with their lives and do it cautiously and be safe and smart.”

Ellis said she hopes her galleries can help people through the tough times.

“My purpose is to have a place where people can come and make art and bring the community together, and I tell you what, we need that now more than ever,” Ellis said.

Like many shop owners these days, Ellis is following state guidelines and asking people to wear masks while they’re inside the galleries. If customers don’t have masks, Ellis can provide one.

“I have masks. I have hand sanitizer,” Ellis said. Darbytown is now open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Canal Quarter Arts is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Art First is also once again open.

Gallery president Sheila Jones said that people who visit the shop—which showcases fine art prints, photography, ceramics, weaving, sculpture and jewelry ranging from traditional to contemporary to abstract—will find a warm welcome. Art First is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

“We want to get back to having the interaction with the customers that come in. We get a lot of the same people in especially on First Fridays, so you get to know a lot of them,” Jones said.

More than 20 local artists and gallery members are represented at Art First Gallery and are ready to get back together. “We have a lot of interaction between us and we get a lot of inspiration from each other,” Jones said.

The Art First artists also have new work that they’re ready to show.

“The artists have had a lot of time to create a lot of new work, so I’m sure the customers are looking to see how we spent our time,” Jones said. “I think the customers are probably looking forward to new works.”

Art First has a basket with complimentary one-of-a-kind masks made by a gallery artist just inside the door for visitors who forget their masks.

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