Opening the black door

Thursday, December 6, 2007
Craig Thomas painted the trim in his Black Door Gallery, which will be open for First Friday. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

Craig Thomas has the distinction of being Cape Girardeau's only working full-time artist. He is known for his indoor and outdoor murals and his commission work. His wife, Elizabeth, teaches art at Franklin Elementary School in Cape Girardeau and creates multimedia art she has exhibited at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri and with Womart, a group of women artists that is no longer active.

Opening their own art gallery has long been one of the Thomases' goals. That became possible eight years ago when they moved to a bungalow on South Spanish Street with a separate building in back. They've been working on turning the building into a gallery for the past two years.

On Friday the Black Door Gallery at 124 S. Spanish St., becomes the 11th in Cape Girardeau's multiplying list of art venues. 2007 alone has seen the opening of the River Campus Art Gallery and the Crisp Museum at the River Campus, the Westray gallery on Broadway and the Untitled Gallery on Main Street.

The Black Door Gallery show will include a number of Craig's older works and a new series by Elizabeth titled "What is Beauty?" It consists of nine pieces that employ doll faces to examine perceptions of beauty. One is titled "Hidden Beauty," another "Natural Beauty."

Elizabeth said the Black Door Gallery is open to showing anyone's work. "We would be willing to show anyone in the community who maybe didn't get a chance to show, maybe because it was controversial," she said.

Work by retired Southeast Missouri State University art professor Rick Procter will be exhibited in January. The freedom to exhibit nudes, often found in Procter's work and in some of Thomas', is one of the advantages of opening his own gallery, Craig said.

Craig thinks the brick building dates to about 1875 and was servants' quarters. The gallery's black front door is 100 years old. About 25 people attended a soft opening last month on First Friday.

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