From the Valley: Co-op Galleries

by David A. Sear

The NE chapter convened a small discussion group in December to explore the areaís co-operative art galleries. While these types of galleries exist in many formats throughout the country, word of newer entities here sparked our inquiry. We were fortunate enough to have four representatives from the Appleton and Oshkosh areas offering their different experiences. A rich pattern of unique organizational structures, struggles, and sense of mission emerged from our informal talk. The following summaries are based on their reports.

The ArtSpace Collective, the oldest and perhaps best known of this group, grew from an artistsí critique group and only recently formalized into a non-profit organization. Their main goal is to provide an artistic face to the Oshkosh community by having this venue for exhibitions. Gail Panske, a founding member, reported about 12-15 members. The collective aims for monthly gallery rotations consisting of member solo exhibitions while also including 2 group shows a year.

Jon Wos, representing Jambalaya (also in Oshkosh), provided the most evocative description of an artistic community: a loose knit group of artisans creating art in a derelict building with no heat, an absentee landlord, and the impending encroachment of urban redevelopment. Growing from a couple of artists about seven years ago and oscillating between 9-15 members, they rent a 3 floor building for $500/month. Their primary focus is centered on working studio spaces with exhibiting space for members. Ironically, gentrification of the surrounding area may threaten their very existence as cheap rents may be a thing of the past.

Main Street Artworks in Hilbert (12 miles southeast of Appleton) formed using a LLC business partnership with four charter members in 2003. Printmaker Bonnie DeArtegea described meeting their mission through public offerings such as workshops by member artists, bus trips to metropolitan museum exhibitions, and their emergence as a regional nexus for local cultural events. Specific programs included the Sturgeon Decoy Show in January and the upcoming Common Ground Exhibition, a multi-disciplinary exploration of the Niagara Escarpment. A combination of studio areas with gallery space is available. Printmakers take note: they have perhaps the most readily available printmaking press for rental time in the region.

Mary Jo Weidert is the founder and director of the newly opened Wild Apple Artistís Studios and Gallery, formerly La Pomme Rouge. Its mission is to provide affordable professional studio and display space to local and regional artists. The gallery is located on a spacious 4th floor of a downtown Appleton building. Studio artists work gallery hours open to the public while artists who only rent display space are not required to work gallery hours.

Several of the collectives do not charge a gallery commission on sales while the others work on a 20-30% share. Monthly fees vary from the different venues due to each galleryís unique mission and each artistís needs. Gallery display space runs $20-55/month. Studio spaces in these co-ops start from $40 and range to roughly $100/month.

While time did not allow us to explore the wide variety of media being used by the artists in these spaces, mediums such as glass, textiles, assemblage, ceramics, metals, printmaking, and painting are all found in these artistsí studios.

Again, I would like to thank the co-op representatives for volunteering their time and experiences as well as several members of the NE Chapter who assisted with contacts and ideas for this conversation. It was reassuring to hear about these grass roots efforts.

Wild Apple Artistís Studios and Gallery
513 W. College Avenue
Appleton, WI

Main Street Artworks
Hilbert, WI

ArtSpace Collective
7 Merritt Ave
Oshkosh, WI

Jambalaya Co-op
413 N. Main St
Oshkosh, WI