Ann Arbor's WSG Gallery lost its lease on Main Street and upped its online offerings


Pulp received an email on May 7 from representatives of WSG Gallery, the longstanding Ann Arbor artist collective that had space at 306 S. Main St., saying, "Our landlord notified us that he has already contracted with construction people to dismantle walls and etc from the interior of the gallery on 5/27. He plans to put a 'FOR RENT' sign in the front window."

The email went on to discuss surprise and dismay on behalf of the WSG artists, and I asked some follow-up and clarifying questions in order to write a post. But after saying they would discuss my questions and get back to me, I never heard back from WSG.

But that's not because anything had changed with WSG's sudden eviction; it's because the gallery decided to press ahead with its new life online.

"At this point we are dedicated to moving forward," wrote WSG Gallery president Valerie Mann in a June 18 email. "We are out of our old space and busting our tails with our online gallery.  We are having great success with sales so far and are really pleased!  Our strength is really in our people.  I mean, I have 83 year olds learning how to build web pages!!!"

Mann wrote that because the physical gallery took so much effort to maintain, WSG's online shop "always took the back burner.  Now, our jobs have all morphed. For instance, the guy who coordinates art openings isn’t doing that just now and the folks who install shows aren’t doing that now.  So everyone has stepped up to help and, not only make the physical move of all of our stuff happen, but put the effort into imagining what our new existence is and coming up with new policies."

WSG would still like to find a new in-person gallery, and Mann wrote, "We are putting out feelers for a new space and have actually been approached by a few commercial landlords so far."

But for now, WSG is content to build-up its online presence as the Covid-19 crisis continues and its ensuing uncertainty has most businesses reconsidering how they used to run. WSG is hosting online exhibitions, an ever-morphing salon show, giving virtual tours of the artists' workspaces, and selling works in its newly robust online store

"We feel that the work we are putting into our online presence and shopping platforms will have us in a good place when we find our next space," Mann wrote. "I think of a quote from one of Ari Weinzweig’s books on Building a Better Business, etc.  where he says something like ‘whatever you pay attention to is what you are going to get better at’.  Words of wisdom that we see coming to fruition for our group."

Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.