After 22 years of bringing art to the public, the Visual Arts Alliance of McPherson Gallery, downtown McPherson, is closing their doors. The announcement has brought sorrowful reactions from artists and supporters. There is an air of mourning.
An art space closing in a community has devastating effects.
Creative spaces have exciting and inclusive energy to bring people together. A place for artists to feel ‘at home’ and mingle with others who are actively making artwork. Artists often live more reclusive lives as they spend time in their studios and working. A space such as a gallery can assist in bringing together buyers and artists, along with providing a safe space to grow ideas, exhibit artwork, and collaborate with others.
A creative art space is a destination. It is purposefully sought after by both locals and visitors to a community. When people come into town, they want a unique experience. This includes shops, restaurants and galleries.
The funkier, the better.
This dynamic became very real to me as I opened up my own art studio to the public in Bakersfield, California in 2002. My studio mate and I had regular parties and open studios where we could exhibit, sell our work, and meet new people. We could barely fit all the attendees since it was so popular. There wasn’t anything else like it at the time in the community. The events could have lasting effects as well -- sales would come in weeks and months after the event.
When I moved to Hutchinson in 2006, I quickly got a studio space ready to work in and later opened it up to the public. This art space evolved into Gallery 7 and the headquarters for Third Thursday events. Later, I reopened as Artlandia: Creative Spaces in an effort to provide rental space for studios and offices while still maintaining an exhibit and retail area. Combing all that with trying to stay creative myself in my own artwork was the biggest personal challenge. The space was beautiful, attendance was full, the art shows were glorious.
But a specific element was missing -- sustainability.
I knew it was important that I be there and the space be available, but how to financially support a creative space in any town is a very real question. Looking to the wants of the public is an important aspect. Money into a gallery is usually brought in by sales. But are people buying art? Are they buying enough art?
I believe people are generally moving away from large purchases and into spending more on experiences. We are noticing the effects of a consumeristic society. And let’s face it, people only have so much expendable money and wall space. When your home is filled up with art you have bought and you love, you stop buying paintings and pictures. That ripple effect reaches your community.
We are sad when a place closes, or an artist moves away, but how many of us were financially supporting? Artists move away away from smaller communities because of more opportunity in larger cities. This also leaves a void.
Some say people need to buy more art, but I don’t think that is the answer. We can’t place the blame or responsibility on our community that may not be able to afford artwork or have space for it. Moving the responsibility away from the private sector is important for the future path.
Hutchinson, McPherson and other communities may need to continue to develop ideas that assist and affirm artists.
Reality check: How would you feel in Hutchinson without:
Hutchinson Art Center
Let’s not be complacent about how these things continue, because artists and creatives take the initiative to bring them to life. Fully understanding the importance of the artist can be crucial to our future.
People are leaning towards collecting experience rather than stuff. Galleries and artists will adjust. Support is needed for sure! But what does that look like now? In what ways can we financially support the creatives in our community without purchasing physical work? I have great hope that the creative, economic and public sector can figure it out together.
The door to collaboration and exploration is beckoning to be opened.
Jennifer Randall, a Hutchinson artist and organizer of Third Thursday, writes an arts and entertainment column for The Hutchinson News. Reach her at email@example.com.