Drum roll please. A new art gallery recently opened at the Salt Lake City Main Library. Art at the Main is a non-profit artist co-op exclusively for emerging Utah artists. The small space among the atrium shops inside the library building features the work of 17 artists working in “any medium that can hang on a wall.” All work sold in the gallery is original.
The new gallery held an Open House on Friday and Saturday, June 2-3 to mark the opening of their venture. If you didn’t have a chance to attend, make sure to stop in during the upcoming Utah Arts Festival, June 22 –25, which is held at Library Square.
Joy Nunn, one of the founding members of Art at the Main, says the inspiration for the artists’ co-op came to her the first day she worked at a temporary co-op in the Library sponsored by the Utah Watercolor Society in the fall of 2005. “It was such a wonderful venue in a public place where there’s lots of traffic, including out-of-state visitors,” she says. Immediately after her experience with the Watercolor Society co-op, Nunn approached Library management about the idea of a permanent art gallery.
Nunn’s group, including co-founders Janet Bondi and Julie Morriss, was not the only applicant for the space and they were frankly surprised when the Library accepted their bid. But the group’s business plan was clearly designed to appeal to Library decision makers. First of all, they established their business as a non-profit dedicated to supporting emerging Utah artists who do not have other places (i.e., galleries) to show their work. Secondly, they proposed to introduce their love of art to the public by offering demonstrations, classes, lectures, and occasionally hosting special art shows in conjunction with public high school art classes. And thirdly, the co-op will collaborate with the Library to amplify some of the special Library programs and themes.
“When the Library has its program on ‘literary luminaries’ for children,” Nunn mentions as an example, “we will challenge our artists to create work connected with what the library is showing. We may feature books and the paintings they inspired in our window.” Another opportunity for collaboration will be the Library theme, “Salt Lake City in your own back yard,” for which the co-op artists may paint and display scenes from the Salt Lake area.
The 17 artists who are the initial members of the co-op will support and run the gallery. They contribute to the operating expenses, work a certain number of days each month, and give up 15% of each sale to support marketing and other expenses. In addition, they help decide what the gallery will display and what kinds of special programs they will offer. Each artist commits to participation for a year, at the end of which they may decide whether to stay or not.
“Our goal is to help prepare artists for other opportunities,” says Nunn. Art at the Main will give them a chance to interact with the public, get a feel for what is marketable, and help them discover their niche.
While Art at the Main is registered as a “non-profit” business, it has not yet received approval on its IRS application for tax-exempt status. If and when it does become tax- exempt, the group may apply for grants to support its programs and reduce the financial burden on its artists.
Art at the Main is still accepting applications from artists. They believe they can accommodate up to 25 participants, depending on the size of their work. They will also consider artists who work in glass, sculpture, or fiber.
While the gallery space is limited, “eventually we want to have a web site on which the artists can show even more of their work than we can display at the Library,” says Nunn.
Art at the Main is open during library hours: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. (Monday -Thursday), closing at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. During the Utah Arts Festival, the gallery hours will expand to coincide with other Arts Festival activities.
Art at the Main members include Gayle Allen, Dana Ballard, Terrece Beesley, Janet Bondi, Janet Brohm, Louise Earl, Sandy Fullmer, Cary Griffiths, Kristine Groll, Betta Inman, Cara Koolmees, Julie Morriss, Maura Naughton, Joy Nunn, Elena Sepulveda, Nancy Swanson, Joan Zone.
Sue Martin holds an M.A. in Theatre and has worked in public relations. As an artist, she works in watercolor, oil, and acrylic to capture Utah landscapes or the beauty of everyday objects in still life.
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