A decade of beauty: Celebrating the Visual Arts Cooperative

Friday, April 6, 2012
All of the 51 local artists that make up the Visual Arts Cooperative have work on display in all three of the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri’s galleries at 32 N. Main in Cape Girardeau. The work on display encompasses a variety of mediums including sculpture, painting, drawing and photography. The gallery is open Tuesday- Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (ADAM VOGLER)

In 2003, Dr. Jean Chapman changed the Cape Girardeau arts community forever by forming the Visual Arts Cooperative and pushing First Fridays with the Arts.

"Don't put a basket over your candle," Chapman said to the Southeast Missourian on March 14, 2003. "Most artists have few opportunities to show their art."

In that spirit, the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri will be hosting a reception today for the 10th annual Visual Arts Cooperative's three-gallery show. The exhibit will be on display through April 28 in the Jean Chapman and Lorimier Galleries, and Gallery 100 at the arts council.

"When we first started this, we'd get maybe 50 people in a gallery in a night. Now we get in upward of 750 come through on a First Friday," said Visual Arts Cooperative secretary and treasurer Vicki Outman, who has been with the organization since its inception. "Because of the co-op and arts council bringing in different styles of artists, the event just keeps growing. More people are coming, more galleries are opening, more artists are creating."

Craig Thomas, arts co-op president, said, "First Friday has been going on in Cape for decades. I believe it started with past arts council director Bev Strohmeyer, who is now the Arts Council director at the state level. But Jean pushed it into the community conscience. He would be so proud of what First Friday has grown to be."

"Born Free," an acrylic painting by Melissa Whitaker, hangs in the Dr. Jean Chapman Gallery. (ADAM VOGLER)

The annual exhibit is a chance to showcase the talents of the arts co-op in full, displaying pieces from each of the 51 regional artists who are members of the group. This year marks the beginning of the 10th year the organization has been together, working endlessly to promote First Friday events.

"The birth of all the galleries and the awesome variety of art presented to our patrons in the region has created a wonderful social event for our area. This has benefited the artists and the art lovers of the community," said Linda Buis, arts co-op coordinator. "Ten years ago, who would have imagined there was this much creative spirit wandering around the streets of Cape Girardeau, but known to only a few? This fun event has produced strong bonds tying the community together."

The Visual Arts Cooperative was founded by Chapman, who died in 2009, and was formed in conjunction with the arts council's move to its current location in downtown Cape Girardeau in 2003. The group offers an opportunity for its members to show and sell their artwork on a continuing basis. The Jean A. Chapman Gallery at the arts council provides a permanent display space for the group of artists and is changed monthly to exhibit new pieces.

"It has become more than a local thing, more than a regional thing. And more than an art thing, with people hitting the galleries and then dinner downtown," Thomas said. "It's great for the artists, and it's great for commerce and tourism. It's also nice to see local community members collecting and taking an interest in art."

The arts council will present the arts co-op's annual showing starting tonight from 5 to 9 p.m. The show features a multitude of artistic styles and media, including oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, sculpture and photography. Arts co-op window exhibitors for the month are Mary Ann Hartman, Aaron Horrell and Jeneal Rogers. Examples of the work can be seen at visualartscoop.com. Food and wine will be available, and to commemorate what Outman calls a "special occasion," Julie Walker will be performing folk music from 6 to 8 p.m. during the reception.

All of the 51 local artists that make up the Visual Arts Cooperative have work on display in all three of the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri's galleries at 32 N. Main St. in Cape Girardeau. The work on display encompasses mediums such as sculpture, painting, drawing and photography. (ADAM VOGLER)

"I imagine Dr. Chapman would be very pleased with all the galleries that have sprung up over these years since the inception of the Visual Arts Cooperative and arts council partnership. He would have envisioned something like this happening; he had great foresight and could see where there was potential for such a phenomena to blossom," Buis said. "The creation of an art around town gallery walk was always on his mind. But, being who he was, he would expect this event to continue to grow and develop."

The arts council's gallery, at 32 N. Main St., is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

jsamons@semissourian.com

388-3641

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