Longtime Gallery Owner Grace Chosy Reflects
I visited Grace in the gallery’s hustle and bustle during her last few days there. At 1825 Monroe Street on Madison’s near-west side, the Chosy Gallery is tucked in among other unique and attractive shops. Large street-level windows surely pique visitors interest and draw them inside where they become immersed in a bright, welcoming space, one that is not at all intimidating. In 1996, while the gallery was still housed on Henry Street, Chosy became aware of a vacant store space just one mile from her home. The openness and high ceilings were perfectly suited for exhibiting artwork, so she set out to renovate and moved from the space she where had been since 1981. “I was attracted to the building for its accessibility, visibility and ample parking,” explains Chosy. “This location incorporates us into a fantastic neighborhood where residents are truly involved with the gallery. They come in to browse and enjoy the art, but meanwhile they learn about our artists and may even add to their personal collections. We invite them to gatherings held just for those living nearby.”
Grace became interested in the gallery business through her many years of volunteering at the Madison Art Center, where she eventually became gallery shop chairperson. She had met Ellen Seuferer there and they discussed opening a gallery, which they did in 1979. They were partners until 1986.
Grace knows that she will miss the activity of the gallery in ways that she cannot imagine. But she says, “Mostly, I will miss the closeness to the artists, meeting their spouses and working with the people here. Artists have always been the high point for me. I enjoy them very much while gaining insights into their goals and aspirations and visiting their studios.” She know life will change because every day the gallery is so lively and full of activity: answering phones, meeting with artists, arranging exhibits, handling artwork, enjoying conversations with visitors, too. “There is never any down time. Our core artists here number about 60 or 70. That is a lot of inventory. We take it a day at a time, then we plan for tomorrow. That has always been the pattern.”
Contributing to the gallery’s success in this community has been the “presence of quality museums, the Madison Art Center and the Elvehjem, which have fueled the professionalism and variety of artists we have here.” Grace added that “location in a university city has raised the bar for me. It has made it all possible. We maintain written material for visitor education, such as, artist’s statements and resumes, and text panels. Developing the Grace Chosy Gallery News, which now reaches a state wide audience began as an outreach attempt and that has been successful. Helpful, too, is the inclusion of Art Corner, which explains unfamiliar or new methods, for example, monotype and encaustic.”
Wisconsin Artist, Peggy Flora Zalucha offered some comments at Chosy’s retirement party.
Although they are personal remarks, they undoubtedly speak for all of the Grace Chosy artists. In summary, they say: We recognize the impact she has made by creating a place for people of Madison to come, to learn, to view and to buy. Grace is always happy to see you. Her friends express appreciation for her honesty, loyalty and support. She will be remembered for the business she ran by her heart. Her love for artists is expressed in her love for the art.
A conversation with Grace Chosy in the bright and colorful space she developed offers an insight into her personality. The observations cited above reveal the person Grace is and her level of support for Wisconsin art. She is congenial, forthcoming in her remarks, and she appears uncomfortable when compliments are sent her way. She is quiet spoken yet accessible. Although “retired” Choosy plans to continue her active art world life, as a board member at Madison’s Tandem Press and through a Rotary-sponsored Multicultural Center project. She plans to travel and relax in Door County with her husband, Jack. But even there she is involved with the Fairfield Museum and Anderson’s Dock. She is retiring in good health and wants to share more time with her family.
Is there a continuum? Definitely! Karin Ketarkus is the new director of the Grace Chosy Gallery. Having been a Gallery Assistant and framer with the gallery since 1995 and a UW-Madison M. F. A. printmaker represented in the gallery since 1981, she is the ideal person to maintain the gallery’s excellence. She is committed to Wisconsin art, but will move to introduce new artists in 2004. The name of the gallery remains the same. It promises to be a seamless transition.
And Grace, we wish you well.