BEREA -- After nearly a year of being shuttered due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Berea Arts Council (BAC) is back open and ready to host events in the community again.

The organization was hit hard by the pandemic and the ensuing shut down in March 2020, which limited in-person events and shuttered store fronts and businesses.

According to Matt Reyna, program and operations manager for BAC, before the pandemic, the council had two full time staff members and the organization had just moved into the historic Tate building on Chestnut Street in Berea.

Then the pandemic hit.

The arts council was forced to cut its staff and close it doors.

"It's a little strange, because the arts council had just moved into this space, which is a larger space and more visible. Then the pandemic happened and we had to close the doors. So really, the arts council and the community hasn't really been able to enjoy its new home until now," Reyna explained.

Now the doors to the building are open and the council are preparing for its first event since the onset of the pandemic.

The council will be hosting a Holiday Market, which will begin on Nov. 23 and continue until Dec. 18.

"We wanted to coincide our event with Shop Small Saturday, so we are encouraging everyone to stop by and browse some of the wonderful items our vendors have provided," Reyna said.

The market will feature items from about a dozen artists skilled in pottery, woodworking, fiber arts, painting, soapmaking and other artisic mediums.

Reyna said the Holiday Market is the first event the BAC has done since it reopened a few weeks ago, but the council is planning to ease into others.

"We are still in a pandemic, so we are trying to be mindful about how we can do events and remain open safely. We are working our way back up to full strength. We can't go from zero to 60 and do all the things we were doing before, but we are steadily working towards that goal as we, and the rest of the world emerges into this new reality," Reyna said.

However, Reyna said he and BAC board members are determined to keep the arts council open.

"I think the biggest key takeaway from the pandemic, and even now, is that we are missing that connection to each other and that's where the arts shine," Reyna said. "Berea and its artists need this arts council and we are committed to celebrating and promoting all modes of creative expression -- all art forms."

Currently, the arts council gallery is open Wednesday through Friday every week from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Reyna said the council is currently hosting a membership drive and those interested can sign up at on the BAC's website at bereaartscouncil.org. The arts council is also accepting volunteers to expand the gallery's hours.

"We are calling on our community at this moment to help us grow once again. It's the community's arts council and it will be what they make of it. We are always open to donations and deeply appreciate any support the community can give us," Reyna said. "The arts stay alive because of the generosity of the community. We welcome anyone to join us in growing the arts council once again."

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