Joyce Lincoln remembers vowing to herself at the age of 9 that one day she would live in Cannon Beach. Even as a child, she appreciated the natural beauty, the fresh air, and the community spirit. The Northwest native saw her wish come true in 1987, when she and her husband, Robert Necker, opened Northwest by Northwest Gallery in downtown Cannon Beach Thirty-three years later, they’re representing some of the biggest names in regional art.
But now, she said, the place National Geographic named one of the most beautiful places on Earth has posted a closed sign.
The COVID-19 virus has ground life to a halt. Lincoln had to close her gallery during what would normally be a busy week – spring break — after tourists swamped the coast last weekend and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued a statewide order closing nonessential businesses and telling people to stay home.
OREGON IN SHUTDOWN: VOICES FROM THE FRONT
“You can walk down Main Street and maybe see six other people,” Lincoln said this week. “Nothing is happening; it’s total devastation. Everyone is frightened out of their wits and frightened for themselves and their families. We’re all losing money every day. People are distracted by fear.”
Nonetheless, Lincoln said she completely understands why businesses have been shut down and tourists asked not to visit. But while health concerns top everyone’s list, Lincoln also worries about the local families who make their living in the restaurant and hotel businesses.
Last year, the local food bank served 9,000 people, she said. “And that was in good times.”
Lincoln’s been through this a time or two. There were the dark days following 9/11 and the drawn-out recession following the 2008 housing market collapse. The gallery pulled through, largely thanks to regular clients and local friends and, Lincoln said, “We learned to live a conservative lifestyle.”
Where or how this ends is anyone’s guess, but Lincoln believes her gallery and others will survive — for the same reasons it survived previous downturns: the community.
“I love my community and I’ll tell you what, we are really, really lucky,” Lincoln said. “The city of Cannon Beach really supports the arts. Part of the reason is they recognize what an economic engine we are. Visitors cherish our arts. Two-thirds of artwork are purchased while people are on vacation, because they have the time to look and come back. They have high expectations. They realize our work is original. When you buy artwork, you are supporting so many things. You are supporting a studio artist, which allows them the time to create their work.”
Purchasing gift certificates is one way people can continue supporting the artists her gallery represents, such as sculptors Georgia Gerber and Ivan McLean, photographer Christopher Burkett, and painter Hazel “Haze” Schlesinger.
“Even though you’re not making any sales, your bills still come in,” she said. The same is true for the artists.
“Just like us, they’re eating rice and beans. That’s why I’m hoping people will buy gift certificates, so everyone can stay afloat. That is the name of the game. A lot of these people are just so amazing. You have to support what you love. We’re in it for the long haul.”
At the Bijou Theatre in Lincoln City, owners Betsy and Keith Altomare are hoping film fans also will stock up on gift cards for future use; in addition, they’re looking to keep cash flowing through that movie must-have: popcorn.
Every night from 6 to 7 p.m., the pair are offering their hot, buttery popcorn and anything else (except alcohol) from their candy counter. It’s regular prices ($5, $5.50 and $6) and they’ll even bring it out to your car if you like.
“It’s to keep in touch with patrons and to get a little money for us and our staff,” Betsy Altomare said. “We also like to ask what they’re watching. We share that on Facebook. It’s fun to share what everyone is binging on while eating their Bijou popcorn. Some people get candy, too. But they are in and out, no hanging around. No one wants to hang around.”
This story is supported in part by a grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust, investing in Oregon’s arts, humanities and heritage, and the Lincoln County Cultural Coalition.