Marta Churchwell: Joplin's new art gallery serves as a melting pot of cultures  lifestyles

Marta Churchwell: Joplin’s new art gallery serves as a melting pot of cultures lifestyles | Pro Club Bd

Joplin’s newest gallery, Elements Art Gallery and Studio at 2207 W. Seventh St., is both a cultural experience and a place to shop for art.

His artwork represents a melting pot of cultures from our heartland of Missouri, Texas and Illinois to Portugal, India and China.

Not only will the gallery feature artworks from other parts of the world, but guests will also be served Chinese kung fu tea, maybe even some Asian appetizers while perusing the art. It will also host arts events to promote other cultures, including their food and fashion.

This is important to the owners, Sichuan, China artist Cher Jiang, who came to America 10 years ago, and her business partner, Carthaginian artist Kristen Hawkins.

They intend to use the gallery to promote Jiang’s native culture as well as the culture of other countries and provide gallery visitors with artworks from a range of geographic areas in addition to those created by local artists.

“We want to be different but with arts and culture and try different things,” said Jiang.

The gallery currently includes 14 artists whose work includes all types of painting, photography, mixed media, resin furniture, jewelry, glasswork and pottery.

Some of the artists, as well as Jiang and Hawkins, will lead courses in their respective mediums, and there are plans to bring in artists to teach artworks practiced in other countries such as China, Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines. Jiang offers examples of courses in Asian shoe painting or folk art.

“It will be very unique Asian art going back centuries,” Jiang said of the courses.

The gallery covers nearly 5,000 square feet of floor space with an Asian-style seating area and a requested area for some of the artwork. Otherwise, it’s an open floor space for 3D artwork, classes, and art events. There is ample parking, allowing for plans to occasionally station an Asian food truck there, Jiang said.

Although the gallery is far from downtown where our other galleries are located, Jiang and Hawkins believe designating West Seventh Street as part of historic Route 66 will help attract customers. You’ll see a growing number of shops in this area, including an authentic Chinese restaurant, the Fu Noodle House, which Jiang and another partner, also Chinese, have opened a few doors east of the gallery.

Jiang and Hawkins also noted that the Missouri Department of Transportation has announced major upgrades on 4 miles of Seventh Street, including the gallery area. The couple hopes the project will boost this line of business.

“We hope to be part of a revitalization of this neighborhood,” Hawkins said.

It seems that Jiang approached them to open the gallery at the right time.

Hawkins always wanted to open a gallery but got distracted by motherhood. She developed an interest in art as a child with the help of her mother, who was an amateur artist. But in adulthood, she had to put her art interests on the back burner while raising her children.

In 2010 she began creating again and has participated in group shows at venues such as artCentral and Koka Gallery in Carthage and Spiva Center for the Arts in Joplin. She practices a range of mediums including resin furniture.

She and Jiang met about 10 years ago at a Carthage Art Walk where Hawkins was showing her work. It turns out they lived just a few blocks apart in Carthage and quickly became friends.

At the time, Jiang had just moved to Carthage from China and was working as an illustrator and character designer for Precious Moments, a museum and chapel in Carthage. Having experience in book illustration and fabric design, one of her designs was picked up for fashion at New York Fashion Week 2016.

But when she came to Carthage, she still needed a better understanding of the English language and American culture. Hawkins helped her, and they often got together to practice their painting. When Jiang faced a building that was well suited for a gallery but had too much space to manage alone, she turned to Hawkins as a business partner.

The gallery’s first course on water lily painting, which attracted mostly Asian students, has already been held, but weekly courses are forthcoming. The schedule will be posted on the gallery’s Facebook page. A gallery opening celebration is scheduled for Friday, August 5 at 6:00 p.m. and will include Asian food and artwork drawings.

Elements Art Gallery and Studio hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Saturday from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

While Jiang said the number of artists she can accommodate is currently exhausted, she urges artists who wish to join the gallery to contact her for future openings.

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