The Art Alliance of Idyllwild (AAI) opened its community gallery in March of 2018 in the Courtyard building. The nonprofit organization has been helping artists, allowing them to gain exposure for years through various events and programs and, with the Courtyard Gallery, a year-round place to sell their work.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, events to fund nonprofit endeavors were canceled.

“Because of the COVID-19 situation, we had to take a look at practicalities and numbers because two of our three fundraisers have already been canceled this year,” gallery manager Cynthia Grady said.

The Courtyard Gallery will be closing its doors at the end of the month.
Photo by Donna Elliot

Those fundraisers give the AAI its operating budget.

“We still don’t know for sure if we are going to pull off our biggest fundraiser, which is the Art Walk and Wine Tasting,” Grady said. 

The Art Walk and Wine Tasting is in the fall and has been going strong for more than 20 years, bringing art enthusiasts and wine connoisseurs together for a weekend full of fun.

With the uncertainty of their big fundraisers and COVID-19, the AAI board has had to make the tough decision to close the gallery. Realizing that art is low on the list when expendable budgets are shrinking, it was the practical thing to do. 

While the AAI had an anonymous financial donor ready to help them stay open until December of 2020, the risk to open the gallery during the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t worth it. The gallery will close at the end of June.

“Our decision is based mainly because we do not wish to put our volunteers in harm’s way,” AAI President Donna Elliot said. “Not all visitors to Idyllwild wear masks and often ignore any signs that require them to do so in shops. It is a sad decision, but necessary at this time.”

The gallery wouldn’t have been possible without the help of landlords Robin and Evan Mills. They were gracious and did everything they could to help keep the gallery going. They even waived April’s rent for all of their tenants, including the gallery. 

“We want to thank our landlords, Robin and Evan Mills,” Elliot said. “They’ve been very supportive over the years, and without their support, we wouldn’t be able to have the gallery.”

“The gallery isn’t just a gallery,” Grady said. It also operates as a visitors’ center.

“We wanted to make it a community center,” Grady said. “We were thrilled for a place and a space to hang and exhibit our artists’ work while sending visitors to all the businesses in town. We are unique from any other gallery because we aren’t profit-driven.”

While the closing of the gallery is unfortunate, Elliot remains optimistic, “We are hopeful that we will find a new space at some stage. In any event, we will continue to organize events at other venues such as Town Hall, AAI booths at community events and curate the art at various restaurants and shops. We are pretty excited about all the possibilities that we can muster as things open up and get safer. The AAI will start to hold a whole new rash of events.

“Before we had the gallery, we were very successful in creating opportunities for artists to exhibit and sell their work and for events that invited the community to see and appreciate our talented artists’ works,” Elliot added. “We will continue to be successful.”