Treasuring Local Art

Often encompassing the spirit and uniqueness of the community, local art is something to treasure. Since last spring, downtown Pittsburg has been the home of a local art gallery created with that very mission in mind, and whose featured art is as varied as its artists.

ArtForms Gallery LLC is a cooperative gallery opened last spring that features high-quality handmade art and fine crafts from 19 local and regional artists. The bright, welcoming gallery displays paintings on each wall and floor displays for each individual artist. One look around the displays and you’ll see a variety of unique media: metal and wood, fiberglass, ceramic, and more fashioned into charming and elegant finished pieces. On the charming side are the sculptures of Lanny Logan, who reclaims old materials – tool boxes, toys, pots and pans – to use as arms, legs, heads and tails of “robotic” animals. Of many elegant pieces, Daria Claiborne’s hand-crafted pottery show incredible attention to detail in each individual piece.

Sue Horner, assistant manager, fiber artist, and one of 4 founding gallery members, said the idea for an art gallery came about during a meeting held by the Kansas Small Business Development Center aptly named Art in Business. She and three founding artists expressed interest at the meeting in opening a cooperative art gallery, and began meeting regularly in late 2015 to plan out the gallery’s structure. “We did research on other art coops throughout the United States, and picked and chose the best ideas we saw from what other galleries were doing.”

They then met with local artists to share the basic model of a cooperative gallery. Instead of a commission-based gallery, under which artists pay up to 40% of their sales to support the gallery’s expenses, Sue and the other artists preferred a cooperative business model: “We decided we would rather pay a flat fee that way it’s more fairly distributed.”

Under this system, artists join the coop with a $100 membership fee, then $50 monthly for rent.  The artists also staff the gallery as part of the coop agreement, meaning each visitor to the gallery is assisted by the artists themselves. In exchange, the artist receives 100% of the profits from their sales.

ArtForms artists include several area teachers, locals from Southeast Kansas and Joplin, and one artist from the Grand Lake, Oklahoma area. Many combine their industrial skills, ranging from Wesley Workman’s metalwork to Rebecca Lomshek’s interest in mathematics, to their artistic expression. Another such artist fusing industrial and artistic is fiberglass artist Mary Lee. “She repairs boats for a living,” Sue explains, “but then she started creating art out of her fiberglass skills.” Additional artists include handmade glass artist Mona Rae, wood artist Kevin Henderson, ceramic artists Hippy Clay and Silvia Shirley, sculpture and jewelry artists Janet Lewis, Ruth Miller, Kristin Girard, Nicole Meyer-Foresman, and Jenna Spencer, and painters Mary Datum, Amanda Smardo, Pat Krantz Glick, and Liz Darling. Profiles of all 19 artists can be found on ArtForms’ website. The gallery hopes to have 22 artists in total. Anyone interested in becoming a member artist may find more information and application on the web site.

In addition to their for-sale art, the gallery’s artists hold educational classes and workshops open to community members. In 6-8 classes held monthly for adults and children, participants learn painting, jewelry, fiber, wood carving, ceramics, and a variety of other techniques. Sue says the classes have been well-received, and offer community members a chance to understand the work behind a finished piece: “Us as artists, one of our missions is for people to become more familiar with and appreciate art through the classes and the work we bring in… People can appreciate what goes into the work that you see. You have no idea how much work has gone into that.” A list of ArtForm’s scheduled events can be found on their Facebook page or as a hard copy available at the gallery.

Between attending each other’s workshops and representing the gallery as staff, Sue says the artists have become close within a short time: “We’re a wide variety of people but we all have a passion for art, and that’s our common tie. But we’re becoming a family… We are finding our association with each other a huge benefit.”

As ArtForms Gallery LLC continues to positively impact the local community, Sue says one of the most important ways people can support the gallery is to enroll in their membership program. Individuals and families can choose from 6 levels of sponsorship, and receive advance enrollments and discounts on workshops and additional benefits. All membership dues go to support the gallery’s operating costs. Anyone interested in the gallery’s membership program is encouraged to stop by the gallery at 620 N Broadway in Pittsburg or by calling 620-240-0165.