New growth at Garden Gallery

Friday, June 25, 2004

Last August, the Garden Gallery opened above Grace Cafe on Broadway with the idea that it would be a place that would support the arts and artists in Cape Girardeau. Almost a year later, the gallery has expanded its size and extended its mission with an artisan cooperative group and display room.

"It's something I've considered since the beginning, but I didn't want to take on too much too soon," said gallery owner Linda Bohnsack.

Right now the co-op is operating on a three-month trial basis, but Bohnsack said she has a good feeling about it and has already put in quite a bit of work preparing the gallery for the co-op.

The co-op room used to be separated from the gallery by a wall. Once the wall was knocked down, the gallery not only gained more room for displaying the co-op's work, but also access to another entrance on Broadway.

The co-op currently has 20 all-female members from Cape Girardeau and surrounding areas.

Bohnsack said it is up to the members whether to allow additional members and that will be one of the issues discussed when the group has its first meeting.

Right now, though, Bohnsack is pleased at being able to bring the work of so many area artisans to the public's attention.

While Bohnsack said she has been pleased with the sales she has had in the gallery (she has sold over 17,000 pieces since opening), she always felt limited as to what she could display and sell.

Bohnsack said she wanted to bring in different mediums, especially ones that worked as functional art, like purses or jewelry, as well as items in different price ranges.

The cooperative room has just that, with everything from watercolor paintings worth $750 to $20 scarves for sale.

If a cooperative item is sold, Bohnsack gets 10 percent commission and the artist the rest. In the main part of the gallery, Bohnsack gets a 25 percent commission of all sales.

She is able to take less of a commission from the cooperative sales because each cooperative member pays $10 a month in rent to have work on display.

This way, Bohnsack does not have to worry about having the money to pay for the room space and the artists have a place to continually sell their work.

Even though the co-op members pay a monthly fee, Bohnsack said it is cheaper than the booth fees many festivals and outdoor shows charge.

"In that sense, it's a true co-op, where we work together as a team with the goal of selling more art," she said. "I don't want this to be a museum, I want people to come in and buy the art."

Some of the co-op's work has been scooped up. In the week that the co-op room has been open, five of the seven scarves by Diana Lily of Cape Girardeau have been sold and Lily is already preparing to make more.

Co-op member Sally Blankenship of Cape Girardeau also has wearable art for sale at the Garden Gallery.

Blankenship, a physical therapist by trade, creates tie-dyed silk products such as ties, sachets and eyeglass holders. Although her items may not be high art, Blankenship said they are useful and affordable.

Her work, like the work of several other co-op members, is art that everybody can buy. "It's the idea that you can carry little pieces of art around with you, it's something you can surround yourself with," she said.

Blankenship became aware of the Garden Gallery's co-op when Bohnsack visited the Bonney Bank in Pocahontas this spring to check out an art sale and get the word out about the co-op.

"I really liked Linda's concept," Blankenship said. "I like the idea that local art can be shown in a graceful, accessible setting and also there is a sense of community among the women who are participants in the co-op."

Although there has not been an official co-op meeting yet, several of the woman already know each other and each others' work.

Potters Anne Foust, Pam Duncan and Evelyn Beussink, for example, are all members of the co-op and members of a recently formed pottery guild that meets at the Garden Gallery.

In the near future, Bohnsack said she will have each of the co-op members provide a biography or an artist's statement along with a photo that can be put together in a book for the public to look at.

"People like to buy things from local artists and they want to know more about the artists so they feel more connected to a piece," she said.

Presently, however, the co-op is still very much a work in progress and its future mostly depends on how its members would like to see it developed, Bohnsack said.

While the co-op room is already open, there was not enough time to put together a reception for the first Friday in July, a monthly event when area galleries display new exhibits.

Instead, the reception for the co-op room will be held on the first Friday in August.

kalfisi@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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