COVID-19: The impact on small art businesses

Inside Bonnie Thompson's art studio, showing the different glass she works with.

Bonnie Thompson is a glass artist operating in Seagrave, Ont. who says COVID-19 has impacted her freelance business significantly.

“My glass business has come to an abrupt stop. My business consisted mainly of working on commissions for individuals and businesses like restoration work, mainly for churches and also teaching,” says Thompson.

“All of these areas involve working closely with customers and are no longer permitted.”

Many businesses in Ontario have come to a halt since Premier Doug Ford called for the closure of all essential businesses. While freelance artists may still do as they please, it doesn’t mean they are doing well.

“I am unable to visit clients at their home or business to discuss design concepts, see the space and take measurements. Ditto for church restoration,” said Thompson. “My classes, a significant portion of my income – also not happening.”

Thompson’s other source of income was working at a Port Perry gallery, Meta4, which is currently closed.

Inside Thompson's art studio.
Inside Bonnie Thompson's art studio.

Thompson said she is taking the time during the pandemic to learn more about social media in order to increase her exposure and gain more clientele.

“Now, I wouldn’t say I am great at social media, in fact, I suck. However, I have the time now to learn and step up my game,” said Thompson.

“My next task is to look into social media platforms and see how I can sell through them online. Additionally, I have developed a new website by myself and now I’m in the process of promoting it to reach new clients.”

Not all freelance artists are having a difficult time.

Toronto freelance artist Jeff Laine says it has been “business as usual” as he uses social media to promote his business.

“Even though the world seems as though it’s stopped, advertising and reaching our target audiences hasn’t stopped. Volume has actually been steady,” said Laine.

While Laine says 90 per cent of his day is at a computer operating his business, Thompson has been learning how to move to a more online platform.

“Thankfully, we live in a world with internet. It has allowed me to communicate, send pictures, research, Facetime, Zoom and post,” said Thompson.

Although Thompson said she is worried about the future of artists and what will come of art shows and galleries, she is happy she will be back in her studio to expand on her craft and create art.