Local artists unite to open new gallery downtown

Friday, May 7, 2010

A group of local artists wanted a showcase for their art and to be solely responsible for creating and manning an art gallery. Their mission led to the O'Tenem Gallery in Cape Girardeau, which will celebrate its grand opening today.

The ceremony will give art patrons an opportunity to view and purchase paintings, jewelry, photography, woodwork, books and more created by the gallery's artists/owners.

One of those artists/owners, Mike O'Gara, said the idea for the gallery came from the desire to showcase their art and share the responsibility of the business.

"It is a co-op of 10 artists," he said. "We share a little bit of the load financially and the running of the gallery. None of us wanted to do all the business work. Between us we have a broad range of skills."

O'Gara hung art in a gallery during his graduate studies at Fontbonne University in St. Louis. His art includes paintings, pastels and photography. He and his wife, Ronda, who is also involved in the O'Tenem project and has a bachelor's degree in fine art, moved back to Southeast Missouri recently to be nearer to her family.

"We saw a need and had this idea, [and] we were able to get enough artists that were interested," he said.

The members of the 10-person group have many skills. O'Gara said one person has a master's degree in business administration, while others have legal, business and marketing experience.

O'Gara said the gallery's location on North Main Street is ideal for showing their art to the community.

"There is 2,800 square feet of gallery space. The size allows us to have four gallery spaces. That means there is a variety of different works," he said. "It is downtown where a lot of other art is happening."

O'Gara said the co-op has set limits on how long the pieces can be on display. He said the constant turnover of art will keep the gallery fresh.

In addition to normal business hours, the gallery will have extended hours the first Friday of every month with special events, though O'Gara said the gallery was not ready to announce what those events would be. The gallery will have a ribbon cutting at 2 p.m. today with its initial First Friday reception with refreshments until 9.

"It's going to be more of a meet and greet," O'Gara said.

Marcia Williamson, a jewelry-maker involved with O'Tenem, said planning the gallery for the past few months has been a wonderful experience and something that she has wanted to do for a long time. The co-op allows her to show and sell her jewelry, while leaving plenty of time to create.

"Being an artist is being a small-business owner," she said. "It takes a lot of time and a lot of money."

Because the members of the co-op come from different artistic backgrounds, Williamson said the art shown at the gallery is varied in medium and style.

"There is something for everybody and every budget," Williamson said. "The large, open areas should show off the art so well."

In addition to the gallery space, she said there will be a gift shop.

"It is another avenue to see a good mix of art. It is fresh and new," she said.

The O'Tenem Gallery will be open noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and noon to 5 p.m. Friday to Sunday The gallery will remain open until 9 p.m. the first Friday of the month. The gallery is at 5 N. Main St.

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