Longest running member-owned Tucson art gallery defies odds in pandemic

Desert Artisans' Gallery
Posted at 6:56 AM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 08:56:22-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Over 50 Southern Arizona artists display their work at Desert Artisans' Gallery, but when COVID-19 hit operations had to change.

"We had to stop and think about which members were comfortable working the gallery and which members were not comfortable," said Desert Artisans Gallery Artist and Board Member, Susan Libby.

The answer to that question led to a two-month closure of the gallery, back in March 2020. This was the longest break the east side business had taken since opening 33 years ago. Desert Artisans' is the longest continuously operating member-owned and run art gallery in Tucson.

"When we reopened, we wanted to be as strong as we possibly could to continue with our customers," said Libby.

The reopening involved masks, hand sanitizer and extra precautions.

"We have really been able to limit the number of people in the gallery because we are large enough. We really work on keeping people separated as much as possible, so they are all comfortable," said Libby.

Libby said the gallery's hours are not what they were prior to COVID-19. In other areas, they have defied the odds. The gallery has maintained consistent sales and managed to keep all staff on board.

"That's been our number one priority over everything else. We want to keep all of our artists," said Libby.

The gallery has been able to move forward with smaller events. They introduce new art to the shop around four times each year. In two weeks, artists will bring in new pieces for sale. Libby said it wouldn't be possible without teamwork and plenty of community support.

"The most important things that have kept this gallery going for 33 years, and especially through COVID-19, are our customers and our members," said Libby.