Southwind Art Gallery closes after COVID-19 sends owner to hospital and infects most staff

Blaise Mesa
Topeka Capital-Journal
Southwind Gallery, 3074 S.W. 29th St., has announced it is permanently closing after owner Janet Pudah was hospitalized due to COVID-19 and retired.

The Southwind Art Gallery is permanently closing after most of the staff tested positive for COVID-19, including Janet Pudah, the gallery’s owner, who is in the hospital.

“This experience has convinced her that life is too short!” the gallery said in an email announcing the closure. “We say all of this with heavy hearts, but we must put our health first!"

Shawnee County has seen 800 cases from Aug. 1-10, which is a dramatic increase from June when some days had zero new cases. Three days from Aug. 1 -10 recorded more than 100 cases.

Shawnee County’s seven-day positivity rate is 15.6%, according to the health department’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Sarah Fizell, executive director of ArtsConnect, encouraged everyone to get vaccinated because controlling the virus helps the art community rebound.

Southwind Gallery, 3074 S.W. 29th St., is planning on closing around the end of September and artists who show their work there must make appointments to collect their art.

“The arts sector was one of the hardest hit (industries),” she said. “Southwind has for a long time been a real anchor arts business in Topeka."

Southwind is closing around the end of September. Artists must make an appointment to pick up their art. Besides employees, only two people are allowed inside at one time and masks are required.

Art won’t be mailed back to the artists, but it can be left outside for those who don’t want to wear a mask.

“(Galleries) offer an opportunity for people in Topeka to see artwork from all over the place,” Fizell said. “Even though Southwind is closing, it is also a reminder of how important it is to buy art in Topeka.

"If people are out there looking for art, be sure to try to find a local business and a local artist to buy it from.”