Artists and craftspeople coming together to form gallery
Seeing oneﾒs own creations on public display and available for sale is one of the most rewarding experiences an artist can have.
With that experience in mind, a group of local artists and craftspeople has been brainstorming on how and where to open a gallery that would be a cooperative, shared space and give residents and visitors alike the chance to see and buy their work.
More than just a store front or gallery, many of these artisans also hope to be able to use the space to actively demonstrate their craftﾗcarving, welding, painting, creating works before visitorsﾒ eyes.
ﾓWe have a lot of local talent,ﾔ said Mike Garrigan, a metalworker who has headed up the recent brainstorming sessions and recruitment effort. ﾓI would like to see the talents of the folks here on display and available for sale.ﾔ
Several of the artists attending the recent meetings currently sell their works through galleries in Petersburg, Beckley, Elkins, Davis Lewisburg or even Virginia. They are eager to have a place close to homeﾗand the Pocahontas Countyﾒs many tourist attractionsﾗto display and sell their creations.
ﾓWhen visitors come to the area, they are always looking for regional art and something with local flavor,ﾔ said Kathryn Gillispie, a watercolor painter who lives in Green Bank.
Gillispie has been involved for 15 years with Artists at Work, a cooperative gallery in Elkins that currently has a waiting list of new artists.
Cooperative galleries tend to have more reasonable prices, as they typically donﾒt charge a commission to the artists, Gillispie said. With the artists taking part in running the gallery, customers also have an opportunity to interact with the people behind the art, she added.
Having a place to sell art and crafts can benefit artists on several fronts, said Garrigan.
ﾓIf you have an opportunity to display work to the public and a chance to sell that work, it motivates you to produce more,ﾔ Garrigan said.
Craftspeople at the meetings have also expressed an interest in leading workshops, making the gallery a place not just for selling, but for learning as well.
Garrigan said he hopes the cooperative will also help artists develop their business skills.
ﾓI think it can function as a business incubator, getting artists comfortable with the business side and marketing their work to the public,ﾔ he said.
As a craftsman himself, Garrigan acknowledged that it is difficult for many artists to balance the business end of what they do while still having time for their craft
ﾓThe whole idea of a cooperative is that you can accomplish things together than you canﾒt do alone,ﾔ he said.
While it is ultimately up to the members, one of the things Garrigan says will set the cooperative gallery apart from galleries in other parts of the state is that it would likely charge no commission on the works sold.
In their own experiences, Garrigan and Gillispie said commissions at some galleries can run as high as 40 or even 50 percent, making the price practically twice what the craftsperson might normally ask in return for the materials, time and creativity that go into producing a work of art.
Those commissions can also put the price out of reach of many potential customers.
Rather than commissions,ﾠ the group hopes to see the gallery funded primarily by dues. Most of the artists have said they would be willing to commit to $25 a month to make the gallery a reality, but it will take many more than 18 people to cover the costs of renting a space and keeping it open.
According to estimates provided by Garrigan at a meeting this Monday, rent, utilities, insurance and other monthly expenses would run between $675 and about $1,000 at locations in Marlinton or Green Bank.
Those artists and craftspeople may have to up the ante to $40 to make it work, but a better scenarioﾗthey seemed to agree Monday nightﾗwould be to get 10 or so more members to come aboard.
ﾓWith more members, our membership dues would decrease, making membership more affordable,ﾔ Garrigan said.
ﾓWe think there are a lot more people out there who want to get involved,ﾔ said Gillispie.ﾠ
With the gallery itself operating as a nonprofit, any money beyond the monthly expenses would go back into the gallery for marketing, maintenance or perhaps, in the future, to pay a part-time shopkeeper, Garrigan said.ﾠﾠﾠ
Ideallyﾗkeeping in line with the idea of a cooperativeﾗ there would be enough membersﾠ for everyone to work a day a month as the galleryﾒs shopkeeper.
And membership will not be limited to working artists and craftspeople, Garrigan said. Art lovers and anyone else interested in the project are welcome to pitch in.
ﾓThe more members we have, the stronger the cooperative becomes,ﾔ said Gillispie.
The Pocahontas County Arts Council voted to get involved just last week, joining the cooperative as a $50-a-month associate member and contributing an additional $100 a month toward operating expenses, said arts council board member Gail Hyer.
ﾓWe have some real talent in this county, in both the fine arts and the craft arts,ﾔ Hyer said. ﾓA co-op would give them a good opportunity to showcase their items.ﾔ
Hyer, who also works for the countyﾒs Convention and Visitors Bureau, also said the demand for locally made artwork and crafts is all ready here.
ﾓWe have tourists coming through here who would like to buy locally made items,ﾔ said Hyer. ﾓRight now, we do not have that many places that offer that choice.ﾔ
At Mondayﾒs meeting, several members volunteered to display or donate a sampling of works and provide more information at the craft show hosted by the Opera House after the Christmas parade December 1.
For more information on the artisans cooperative, Garrigan can be contacted at 456-5547.
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