ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A lot of art galleries struggle to get people in the door, but it’s especially tough at the Maryland Federation of Art.

Not everyone can find the door.

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Since the gallery is set back from State Circle in Annapolis, it’s easy to walk right past.

But that’s changing, even though no more actual people are strolling in.

The MFA has a virtual tour of the gallery for its latest exhibit “Art on Paper,” which runs through April 17. To take the Internet excursion, all people have to do is go to http://www.mdfedart.organd click on the virtual gallery.

Seventy-seven works are shown and close-ups are available, as well as links to artists’ websites. There is also information about the venue and an overview of the layout. Viewers can even email the tour to a friend.

The MFA’s venture into virtual reality began over a week ago, and the response has been impressive. On the first day, there were 773 hits from 44 states and 21 countries, said Joann Vaughan, the MFA’s executive director. “For a little gallery like us, that’s a lot of exposure,” she said.

Cynthia McBride of McBride Gallery in Annapolis, who offers still shots of her space online, said more galleries will have to employ the latest technology to stay relevant.

“You have to use all the tools that are available to reach the public,” said McBride, who heads the Annapolis Gallery Association.

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“Art on Paper” is an annual show at the MFA and typically receives the most submissions for their exhibits. This year, there were 1,100 entries, meaning only about seven percent were selected. The works employ everything from etching to collage and are in a wide range of genres.

Since only a quarter of the artists are from Maryland, many haven’t been able to visit the gallery. The virtual tour has come in handy for them, too.

Artemis Herber of Owings Mills, who has a sculpture in the show, said she has friends in Cleveland and Germany who otherwise wouldn’t be able to see the exhibit. “It’s a treat for an artist,” said Herber.

Her “Bursted Sphere” uses oxidized paint to cover corrugated cardboard.

Rockville business Panorama Street put together the tour, after contacting Vaughan and offering a reduced fee. Daria Giraldo, who runs the business with her husband, said she exhibited a watercolor at a past MFA show, and thought the gallery would be an ideal candidate for her company’s technology.

The tour will be available to people who log in to the MFA’s website even after the show ends under “past exhibits.”

The trick for Vaughan is to secure funding so future exhibits can have the same online visibility. She needs to raise about $2,400 to pay for virtual tours of the six national shows the MFA hosts annually.

“Having that kind of full gallery experience… it’s an excellent idea,” David Diaz, an MFA board memeber and artist. “You see the work as if you’re there.”

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