ATHENS — Christi Barrett says the new Art Matters Co-op and Gallery of Athens will finally give her an art home and an art family, something she feels she has been missing out on and trying to find for many years.
Founders of the co-op and gallery taking shape at 211 Palestine St. in Athens expect it will not only have advantages for artists but give the public a place to view art works, to watch artists at work and attend special events.
Even before the co-op and gallery open in early August, it will stage its first exhibit featuring Zimbabwe sculptures June 25 to 30, including a stone carving workshop June 24-25.
A co to op member, artist Celene Terry, said “connectivity” among artists that the co-op and gallery will provide is great.
Since it’s difficult and expensive for artists to open their own gallery, Ms. Terry said, there aren’t any venues in the area where artists can exhibit their art unless they are involved with an organization that produces a show or they manage to get into a competition in the Metroplex.
“But to be part of (the co-op), it’s an exciting opportunity to be represented and have people hopefully appreciate what you’ve done,” Ms. Terry said.
Sky Copeland, who paints abstracts and contemporary painting, but also creates art works using recycled items, said the co-op and gallery provide a reason for him to come home to Athens for awhile.
“There’s nothing like being in a group setting of artists when you’re working on a piece,” said Toni Stanford, who does representational painting in oil and acrylics, graphite and pencil.
“When you are by yourself,” she said, “you know something is wrong, but you can’t see what it is, but (in the co-op), someone will say you need to do this or that. It’s a big help.”
The co-op and gallery grew out of brainstorming breakfast get-togethers last fall of painters, sculptors, writers, musicians and others in the creative realm, said Charlie Bullock, an artist with his own studio and a member of the gallery’s board of directors.
In late April, a few artists decided to open a co-op and gallery. The space is in a building more than 100 years old that underwent major revamping about 15 years ago.
“The big thing is to give artists a place to go to sell their art, to give them a home and a place to be in an art environment around other artists,” Ms. Barrett said. “That’s something we need to keep art alive in our district.”
The first room will be the main gallery, with an adjoining second gallery room. The galleries will be for major displays of art on the walls, showcases of handmade jewelry by local artists and hand-carved sculptures on pedestals.
Organizers anticipate 10 to 15 artists at a time will display their works in the galleries.
For example, the Acorn Gallery might display winners of an art competition in a school art class.
“It (Acorn Gallery) will hopefully be an inspiration for our youth in the area,” Ms. Barrett said.
A large rear room will consist of seven individual studios for artists who want a studio home. Artists in the studios will rotate, staying about a year before new artists come.
Another area will be an open workshop available to the public for use for a fee. It will have a 4 foot by 16 foot table and a 6 or 8 foot high, 20 to 25 foot long pegboard wall where an array of easels can be hung.
It will accommodate art classes, such as a teacher from a school conducting a summer class, or artists teaching a class.
Part of the space will be for sculptors and live models.
“We want people who come to be able to walk through the entire space and if there are artists working and a sculptor, they can sit and watch. People love to watch other people paint and create,” Ms. Barrett said.
Ms. Stanford added, “The diversity of the artists we have is wonderful – everything from landscapes to abstract to surrealism, water color and different mediums and recycled sculptures. It’s fascinating.”
The more artists and styles that the co-op and gallery have, the more people are going to visit the facility and watch the artists, making it more of a destination than it would be if there was only one artist, Bullock said.
One goal is to begin connecting Athens artists, but the co-op and gallery organizers want to eventually connect with artists in Tyler, Corsicana and throughout the area.
The co-op and gallery always will be open for anyone who comes in to experience art and how it’s done, Ms. Barrett said.
And the entire facility will be available for lease for fundraising events.