From the Gloucester Daily Times
Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories on how the arts community is weathering the challenges brought on by COVID-19.
When Gloucester’s Sue Wheeler opened her art gallery last November, she was hopeful after having a decent holiday season of business. Then came the slower months of winter, and then the pandemic struck and now her shop located in the village of Magnolia is temporarily closed.
She opened Arts Abound to celebrate creativity among local artists and sell locally made items from Cape Ann and Ipswich. She also has a few other Massachusetts artists, like one woman from Watertown who makes jewelry from a protected plant in Brazil called “golden grass” because of its metallic sheen. In all, there are 17 artists featured with an array of fine arts and handcrafted gifts, from pottery to paintings to hand-made aprons — and now face masks in the age of COVID-19.
Wheeler, a graphic designer by trade, has other talents. She sews, paints and in her first career, she was a pastry chef.
” ‘We’ve got you covered” is my slogan now,” she said, referring to the masks. “I thought I’d sell one or two but it has been crazy. I do these to order. I ask if they want a design that is abstract, floral, juvenile, baseball or subdued. My hope is they have some joy in wearing these because this is not a happy time. If these designs make somebody smile at least when they have to put it on every day, then maybe it won’t feel like drudgery.”
Wheeler also has donated about a hundred masks so far to healthcare workers and is working on a batch to donate to SeniorCare volunteers.
Helping her with the mask-making endeavors are her 92-year-old mother, Vivian Wheeler, who is involved with ironing and cutting elastic, as well as two nieces, Alex and Jenn Wheeler, who help cut the fabric.
Even though the gallery is closed because of the pandemic, Wheeler now offers virtual shopping with FaceTime, and she also is making “Lock Down” gift baskets, in which customers can choose what they want the basket to contain including a few food items, like local olive oil and Breakwater Coffee.
“They can also choose from handmade cutting boards, whimsical fish mugs, ocean-inspired pottery, jewelry, and local photography to name just a few options,” she said.
“The idea is people can order whatever they want, and it can include hand-made or hand-painted cards. I’m happy to make things to order,” said Wheeler. “I love to do art and create, and opening this shop was a way to combine everything and a way to help other artists. It’s not easy to be an artist.”
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the artist
Name: Sue Wheeler
Shop: Arts Abound, 21C Lexington Ave., Gloucester
Medium: Painter, graphic designer
Share your story
Are you an artist facing challenges or forced to change the way you approach your craft amid the COVID-19 pandemic? We want to highlight local visual artists, musicians, performers and others in the region’s arts community and the creative solutions they’re using to continue pursuing their passions. Reach out to Sonya Vartabedian, managing editor for features, at email@example.com if you’re willing to share your story.