On a mission to encourage and support artists

Thursday, October 2, 2003

FRED LYNCH * flynch@semissourian.com

Louise Bodenheimer has created 236 drawings for "Guardians, Mothers and Birth of a Woman," her show at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri.By Sam Blackwell ~ Southeast Missourian

Linda Bohnsack describes herself as a timid, practical person. So what was she doing in Northwest Missouri last March suddenly buying hundreds of dollars worth of art?

She had just attended a weekend conference at her church on how to pray. She learned that the most important thing about praying is listening for the answers that may come in many different forms, including dreams. While visiting her younger daughter, Lainie, that morning in March, Bohnsack realized that one of her recurring dreams meant that God wanted her to open an art gallery.

It was an idea she had just recently talked herself out of as impractical "because Cape hasn't really shown it is supportive of the arts." But, she says, "The message was so distinct and detailed I knew this was my 'mission from God.'"

Bohnsack is still amazed that she is now the proprietor of Cape Girardeau's newest art gallery. She opened the Garden Gallery quietly in August on the second floor of the building she and her husband, Bob, own at the southeast corner of Pacific Street and Broadway. An open house Friday will introduce the region to the gallery and its artists.

Having a daughter who is an artist helped Bohnsack see the importance of helping to encourage and support artists. After attending Southwest Missouri State University for three years, Myka Bohnsack transferred to Southeast Missouri State University, where she is majoring in graphic design.

Myka is one of this month's featured artists. The others are Lane Dynneson, Kristopher Naeger, Martha Stoecker and Stephanie White. Metal sculpture by Southeast art professor Edwin Smith, wooden vessels by pediatrician Dr. Joe Tygett, paintings by Central High School art teacher Judy Westrich-Barks and quilts by Bohnsack's former home ec teacher, Judy Robinson, are among the works for sale.

So far, artists have heard about the gallery through word of mouth.

Myka, who also works in the gallery, paints but chose graphic design hoping to find a magazine job after she graduates. She endorsed her mother's idea.

Surveying the art in the gallery, she says, "I like having all this."

Not everyone thought opening an art gallery made financial sense, Myka acknowledges.

"It's kind of a risk. It's more of a giving type thing."

Linda Bohnsack graduated from Southeast with a bachelor of science degree in secondary education but has worked primarily as a decorator and in property management. Her dreams go beyond supporting the arts with a gallery. She wants to do her part to make Cape Girardeau a city where artists feel welcome. That day in March she was in Clarksville, Mo., a town of 490 people. Two years ago, Clarksville ran ads in national art trade magazines promoting itself to artists. Now three blocks in the town are occupied by galleries and studios.

Other rooms in the Bohnsacks' building, which houses the Grace Cafe on the bottom two floors, are now rented to a masseuse, a skin-care therapist and another woman who does yoga therapy. Tuesday, an artist was sizing up one of the rooms for a possible studio.

Bohnsack views all of this as connected to the arts. "They're all part of a healing or spiritually led feeling people have when they come in the building," she says.

"All of us here want to do what we can to encourage that compassion and communication.

"... If people weren't spiritual they would say there were good vibes."

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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