It’s a gamble to open an art gallery in Joplin, even with our reputation as an arts community. But our galleries do, and it shows.
In recent months, I’ve noticed that each of them—Urban Art Gallery, Local Color Art Gallery and Studio, and Elements Art Gallery and Studio—are turning out first-time artists making their first attempts at selling their art. They also offer more classes and give back to the community, whether through charity fundraisers, reaching underserved populations, or promoting the arts in general.
It is possible that business competition is pushing them. In such a niche business, it’s hard to finally get into the profit column and stay there. They don’t just compete with each other—they also compete with local arts festivals, art walks, and community art centers. They must be creative in increasing profits, whether through classes or special exhibitions and events to attract customers.
But they may also be upping their game because they realize the arts are becoming a major force in our community and want to contribute to that.
Either way, arts patrons and the community stand to gain.
These galleries showcase our newest talent in the field, reminding us that there are always up-and-comers who have been lurking in the shadows and finally decide to join our thriving art community. This not only gives these artists exposure but also validates their creative skills, lighting the fire in their bellies.
At the same time, it puts our experienced artists on alert that there are some new but experienced artists nipping at their heels. It’s coming together to give us higher quality and more diverse art.
With the number of classes these galleries offer, the public never misses an opportunity to learn a new creative skill. Want a drawing class of any kind? There are many. Want a class in metal etching, stained glass or resin work? All of these classes are offered by one gallery or another.
Such a range of offerings makes it easy for beginners to step out of their comfort zone and casually try the medium out of curiosity. These galleries not only allow people to discover creative skills but can also groom emerging artists.
In addition to offerings that help increase sales, these galleries also give back to the community through charity auctions and community outreach. Local Color holds an annual breast cancer auction of the Ozarks, and Elements Gallery works with homeschoolers and clients of the Judevine Center for Autism. Urban Art not only promotes its gallery artists, but also hosts exhibitions for all kinds of local artists and serves as the home base for the First Thursday Art Walk.
Our oldest local gallery and our only artist co-op is Local Color in the Gryphon Building at 10th and Main. It was established in 2011 as a collaboration of artists who share a studio and exhibition space and pool their business experience.
In addition to his classes, which concentrate on all types of painting, he holds exhibits outside of his gallery space. Last year, works by his artists were featured in a local history exhibit at the Spiva Center for the Arts, and there are regular exhibits at Crabby’s Seafood Restaurant.
Urban Art is in its eighth year of operation at 511 S. Main St. Run by Linda Teeter, a driving force in the local art community, the gallery features works by its selling artists while also hosting rotating exhibitions by other local artists. Teeter told me recently that almost all of the artists in this year’s rotating exhibitions are new to the exhibition scene.
Our newest gallery is Elements Gallery, which opened last summer at 2207 W. Seventh St. Run by Carthage artists Kristen Hawkins and Sher Jiang, it features the work of local, regional and international artists. Some of his classes focus on the art and culture of other countries. Due to its vast floor space, it hosts public and private events.
These galleries invest in our arts community, allowing it to grow by exposing new art and new artists while contributing to the local economy. Show them support by signing up for one of their classes or buying their artwork. Just a visit to see their artwork shows that you patronize them.
Martha Churchwell is an arts columnist for The Joplin Globe.