New rules can't mask Ohio Craft Museum's mission

ALAN FROMAN
afroman@thisweeknews.com
Connie Pottle and Rachel Alexander, both of Clintonville, examine a piece by Cleveland artist Tom Balbo titled "From Voids to Regeneration" on June 25 at the Ohio Craft Museum. The museum, which is north of Grandview Heights and reopened June 16, now requires all visitors to wear masks -- but handmade masks created by local artists are for sale in its gift shop.

The Ohio Craft Museum now requires guests to wear masks -- but it's giving them a fun way to meet the new requirement.

The museum, 1665 W. Fifth Ave., north of Grandview Heights, reopened June 16 with limited hours and capacity after closing March 15 due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"We were actually eligible to reopen a couple weeks earlier because we fall under the retail category" within the state's reopening guidelines, said Kim Nagorski, communications coordinator for Ohio Designer Craftsmen, which operates the museum.

"We started coming in two weeks ahead of our reopening, getting things ready so that we could open in as safe a way as possible," she said.

The museum has installed plexiglass around counters used by staff members, offers hand sanitizers for staff and visitors to use and requires visitors to wear face masks and to practice social distancing, Nagorski said.

"We can provide masks if they need them, including ones we have on sale in our gift shop that have been made by artists from Passion Works Studio in Athens and by some of our local artists," she said.

Passion Works is a studio serving people with developmental differences.

Each handcrafted mask includes a decorative design, Nagorski said.

Michelle Ishida is a North Linden artist who specializes in handmade hats, handbags and clothing.

She said she began making masks for friends and family members as the pandemic began.

As with the other items she makes, Ishida's masks feature designs inspired by nature.

Her decorative masks in the craft museum's gift shop all have images of trees.

"I began drawing trees when I was studying art at (Ohio State University) and just enjoyed drawing the tree limbs and details of the trees," she said. "I have a real love of nature, and I support the National Arbor Foundation."

Ishida said she employs a type of cotton used for quilting to make her masks. Each mask includes three layers of fabric.

"All of the items I make are functional but also have a design that is cute," she said.

After all, she said, if masks are necessary in public, why not make them fun?

"That's the idea behind the designs for my masks," Ishida said.

The craft museum is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

"We're keeping limited hours and limiting the number of visitors we can allow into the building at one time to 12 people for now," Nagorski said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to increase those moving forward."

Visitors may view Ohio Designer Craftsmen's Functional Ceramics exhibition and a selection of the museum's permanent collection through the end of August.

The ceramics exhibition includes work by 20 artists from across the United States and Canada.

All items on display as part of the exhibition are on sale, Nagorski said. Anyone interested in purchasing one of the pieces from the exhibition may send an email to info@ohiocraft.org.

The museum's first week of reopening "was a little slow," but attendance picked up the second week, Nagorski said.

"We had eight people here (June 23), which is really good," she said. "People are just learning that we are reopened.

"I think people are excited to have the chance to come back to the museum and visit our gift shop."

Sales continued online during the museum's closure, and since the museum and gift shop reopened to the public, several visitors have stopped by to purchase an item as a wedding or anniversary gift, she said.

Had there been no pandemic, the museum's Best of 2020 exhibition would have been on display now, Nagorski said.

That exhibition has been postponed and will be held sometime next year, she said.

The museum also will move up the starting date for its annual Gifts of the Craftsmen holiday exhibition and sale, Nagorski said.

"We usually open that exhibition in November, but we planning to go ahead and get an early start sometime in late September," she said.

The exhibition will feature handcrafted items from about 100 artists from Ohio and across the country and will be open and continually replenished through the holiday season.

The museum's annual slate of summer craft workshops for students is being held online this year, and it is proving as successful held remotely as at the museum, Nagorski said.

"We're following the same set of weekly themes -- like Recyclart, animal art and exploring world art -- as we do in the regular program," she said. "We provide an art-camp to-go box students can pick up with supplies and four or five art projects to work on at home for each workshop. We offered 40 for each workshop, and students signed up to gobble them all up."

When the weeklong workshops end each Friday, students are able to display the artwork they created via Zoom, Nagorski said.

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