Dedicated to providing support for local artists, the two-month-old Artists Row art gallery has experienced a great deal of traffic since its June 22nd opening. Local patrons have already exceeded proprietor Mark Stoops' expectations. The infant art gallery, located at 1300 S. Walnut St., has adopted an open-door policy and has vowed to represent local artists, both academics and professionals. \n"There are a number of talented artists in Bloomington, but there is not a place for them to exhibit their work," said Stoops, who bought the building and has contracted his own renovations. "We want to be that place for these local artists." \nStoops and gallery coordinator Barbara Edmonds have created an atmosphere of open creativity and casualness. \n"There are a number of galleries that have a hands-off, museum-like quality, and the intention of this gallery is to create something more interactive," said Stoops. \nHe dedicated his gallery to artists who are rich in both talent and vision, and who are seeking to show their work in an unprejudiced venue. The gallery owner is open to displaying traditional, as well as unconventional works of art because he is most concerned with creating an opportunity for artists who wouldn't otherwise have a chance to sell their art. \n"The gallery has been a great place for me to show my work," said Sayaka Kajita, a recent graduate of IU's MFA program. "Because this is the first place where I have shown my work, it has helped to create a link between myself and the community."\nCurrently, Artists Row is featuring "Please Be Seated," a show dedicated to showcasing unique and handcrafted chairs made by local artists. While these chairs serve as traditional seats, the materials and design of these chairs is anything but typical. \nThe show features such works as Kajita's "Spring Chair," made from industrial metals welded together and Ned Cunningham's "Damn Right I'm a Hoosier Chair," a red metal rocking chair which includes a Brickyard 400 flag, a Budweiser can in a cup holder and a "Jesus Rules" sticker. \nAnother artist, Kerra Fowler, created "A Chair for You and Your Cat," a functional chair made from rigging rope and virgin creeper vines. \nAlthough the chairs are a prominent presence, the gallery is designed so that other artists' work is not overshadowed by the rotating shows. Also on the schedule is a Halloween show, where Gothic and dark art will be the center of attention and a flower show, in which flowers will not only be represented in art, but also used in the creation of the pieces.\nThe gallery has been open to the public since mid-June, but the project is hardly finished. \nDuring the 1920s, the two-story brick building was originally a grocery store, but was later converted into a number of cramped and darkly paneled apartments. When Stoops began renovating at 1300 S. Walnut, he remembered that the building had once been a grocery store, which contributed to his final plans for the gallery. \n"Since the building had once been a grocery store, I knew that it had the capacity for wide open space," he said. \n that wide-open space is stocked full of work by local artists displaying their painting, sculpture, furniture and photography. The viewer is able to move among the works, allowing them to physically interact with the art, seeing it from all views. The front gallery may be completed and stocked with art, but Stoops is hard at work completing renovation of the back rooms of the building, creating a private gallery that can be rented by artists to showcase their work for one to two weeks. \nThe back gallery is scheduled to open Sept. 13, displaying work by Peter Lawrence, a painter who works on a large scale and hopes his art will sell as one unit, instead of selling the pieces separately. In the long run, Stoops also plans to renovate the basement to make room for the growing number of artists with whom the gallery collaborates. \nStoops said he hopes the gallery will be used not only for displaying art, but also as a basis for other creative presentations in the future. \n"I want people to know that (Artists Row) is a starting point, a resource for other things, such as poetry readings and other avenues of creativity," he said.
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